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Wicker: ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule Discriminates Vocational Schools, Community Colleges


Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Press Release. May 6, 2014.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today told Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that the agency’s proposed “gainful employment” regulation unfairly discriminates against for-profit and vocational schools, as well as some community colleges.

Wicker’s comments were made during a Senate Budget Committee hearing to evaluate the Department of Education’s proposed budget.

“We are a society that believes in choices,” Wicker said. “From consumer goods to Internet providers to flavors of coffee, we want a wide variety of things from which to choose. Unfortunately, one of the areas in which we have not empowered families and parents to make the best choices for their children is in the area of educational opportunities.

“For example, I think the ‘gainful employment’ rule discriminates against for-profit colleges and universities that provide a gateway to the middle class for minorities, veterans, and underserved demographics. If this metric were used at private, nonprofit colleges, 39 percent of students would not meet this threshold.  At the traditional public, four-year institutions, 26 percent of graduates would not meet the metric.”

The proposed 845-page rule defining “gainful employment” is a requirement in which students need to have a debt-to-earnings ratio below 12 percent within two years of graduation.  If a program’s graduates, on average, are above this ratio, then the program is no longer eligible to receive Pell grants or student loans from their students, limiting students’ access and choice.

“I would trust consumers to sort this out over time and choose the best colleges for them – ones that receive quality placement, graduate study, and licensure exam pass rates.”

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