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California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Education Dept. Extends Talks on ‘Gainful Employment’

11/22/2013

Inside Higher Ed.  November 21, 2013.  The federally appointed committee tasked with rewriting the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” regulations will continue its deliberations in December, an Education Department official said on Wednesday. Negotiations over the rules were slated to end Wednesday, but members of the panel were not close to reaching an agreement after more than five full days of debate over the last several months. The committee is charged with rewriting rules that were blocked by a federal judge earlier this year. 

The regulations would condition federal student aid to career-training programs at for-profit and community colleges on their ability to meet certain standards. The department is proposing metrics that would judge graduates’ earnings relative to their earnings, the rate at which former students default on their student loans and whether former students are paying down at least the interest on their loans.

Negotiators were still at odds Wednesday over how those standards should be set, which programs ought to be exempt, and what information schools should be required to disclose to students.  

Representatives from for-profit and community colleges said the rules would unfairly harm their institutions, punishing them for enrolling low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students. Several members of the panel have also said they cannot effectively discuss the department’s latest proposal, which is more stringent than previous drafts, until the department releases an analysis of how the rules would impact institutions.

Department officials have said they are in the process of producing that data on how many programs would pass or fail under its proposal. John Kolotos, the department's representative on the committee, told negotiators Wednesday that the data would be available before the next meeting in December. That session has not yet been scheduled.  The department would be bound by a set of regulations that the panel unanimously supports but would be free to push ahead with its own proposal if negotiators failed to reach an agreement.