September 29, 2010 2:01 PM
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, today told a rally of a thousand students that, “You have every right to determine your own educational needs; you have every right to determine your future career path; and, you have every right to make your own destiny.”
Thompson joined his colleagues Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ); Alcee Hastings (D-FL); and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) at the foot of the U.S. Capitol in a bipartisan show of support for the students’ concerns about U.S. Department of Education proposed regulations on “gainful employment”.
If the “gainful employment” rules go into effect, they will eliminate access to higher education for as many as 400,000 students per year. These rules apply almost exclusively to the for-profit sector of higher education, while ignoring the same issues concerning student debt found at public and private non-profit institutions.
One of the requirements for for-profit institutions to participate in the federal student aid program is that they offer a course of study that leads to “gainful employment” in a recognized occupation. Despite over forty years of existing precedent, the Education Department is considering regulations to define “gainful employment” by establishing an arbitrary 12 percent debt-to-earnings threshold based on student debt for recent graduates of each program offered by the institution. One way of explaining that is a question posed by the Department: Are graduates with typical student debt able to repay their loans in ten years without taking 12 percent of the expected earnings in the occupation?
Once again, these new regulations do not affect public and private not-for-profit universities and colleges.
“The President has promoted a policy to have 5 million new college graduates by 2020,” said Thompson. “I commend the President for that goal, however, I have to stop and wonder how we’re going to achieve the mission if the Department of Education is going to put up road blocks—or—decide that you can only attend one type of school over another.”
“I represent a very rural district in Pennsylvania,” Thompson told the rally. “Many of my constituents don’t have access to a community college and live a significant distance from universities. Many proprietary schools have sprung up out of necessity.”
The effect of these regulations will be that student choice will be limited, because for-profit institutions may not be able to continue offering certain programs, to ensure the proposed debt-earnings-ratio.
“Many students in Pennsylvania choose these schools because of their convenience. They realize that career colleges offer course work of all types and work to accommodate the busy schedules that we all have. They realize that life does not just stop for four years—so you can go to school. And they realize these institutions will give them the skills they need to enter the work force and earn a decent living,” added Thompson.
In May, Thompson joined 9 members of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation in sending a letter in opposition to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on this issue, requesting that the Department vacate the proposed changes. In August, the Department of Education released a formal proposal. Since, Thompson has joined with several of his colleagues on the House Education & Labor Committee in submitting formal comments in opposition to the rules as proposed.
This week, the Department of Education, due to extensive public comment, has decided to move the scheduled publication date of the rules from November 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.