CAPPS - Avocacy and Communication Professional Development

California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Feds Accused of Using Sloppy Factoid on For-Profits

04/15/2014

Inside Higher Ed. April 14, 2014.

The U.S. Department of Education used a misleading statistic in its rollout last month of proposed "gainful employment" regulations aimed at for-profit institutions, The Washington Post reported. Advocates for the sector had pushed back on the validity of the department's prominently featured assertion that graduates of 72 percent of programs at for-profits make less than high school dropouts. The Post looked into the argument on its "Fact Checker" blog, and sided with for-profits.

For starters, the baseline earnings calculation for high-school dropouts was not up to snuff, the newspaper found. The feds used a relatively high figure, relative to other data. And then the department, in both a White House briefing and in written material, used the figure in comparison to for-profit programs. That was an "apples to oranges" comparison, the Post said. One key reason is that the median salary for high-school dropouts did not include data for unemployed workers. It also factored in people who were many years into their careers, while using only recent graduates for the for-profit graduate figure.

The department defended the statistic, which the Post called "bogus." An official said the figure was merely a benchmark, and that problems with for-profits are serious. "However you cut it, one statement remains true: Graduates of a significant number of for-profit career college programs wind up getting jobs with very low earnings -- a fact that should cause concern for any consumer who’s considering those programs as a post-secondary option intended to prepare them for a job.”