07.27.17

Murray, DeLauro, Scott Urge Secretary DeVos to Reverse Course and Enforce Student Protections Against High-Debt Career Training Programs

59 Members of Congress sent a letter highlighting concerns that Secretary DeVos is once again putting interests of for-profit colleges ahead of students

(Washington, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and 56 Members of Congress sent a letter today urging Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reverse the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to delay student protections that require career training programs to disclose potential employment information to prospective students before they make a financial commitment. The Members of Congress highlighted concerns that Secretary DeVos is denying students the ability to make informed decisions about which program best fits their needs and will help them find a good-paying job after graduation.

“Instead of acting to protect students, the Department has chosen to hide behind the weak excuse that for-profit colleges are suing to stop this rule—and keep their profits flowing—to delay and undermine essential protections for students and taxpayers and dismantle regulations issued under the previous Administration,” wrote the Members of Congress. “Once again, we fear that the interests of for-profit colleges are being put ahead of students, parents, and what is best for our country and economy.”

Gainful employment disclosure provisions require career training programs to distribute basic consumer information to prospective students, including the percentage of students who are able to complete on time as well as the typical levels of student loan debt, earnings, and job placement rates among program graduates. These disclosures are part of a set of rules that protect students and taxpayers and require the worst-performing career training programs – those that consistently leave their graduates with more debt than they can repay – to improve or lose eligibility for federal funding.

The letter was signed by a total of 23 Senators. In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Hirono (D-HI), Markey (D-MA), Murphy (D-CT), Reed (D-RI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

The letter was signed by a total of 36 House Democrats. In addition to Congresswoman DeLauro, the letter was signed by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU), G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), James A. Himes (D-CT), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander M. Levin (D-MI), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David E. Price (D-NC), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-MS), and Doris Matsui (D-CA).

Full letter below and a PDF can be found HERE.

July 26, 2017

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Ave. S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We are writing in strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) recent decision to delay critical disclosures to prospective students in career education and training programs. The disclosure requirements of the gainful employment rule are fundamental to protecting students and families before they end up with extensive debt they cannot repay. The rule is also designed to prevent students from ending up with unusable credits or worthless credentials like those who were left in the lurch by the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and ITT Educational Services, Inc.  Instead of acting to protect students, the Department has chosen to hide behind the weak excuse that for-profit colleges are suing to stop this rule—and keep their profits flowing—to delay and undermine essential protections for students and taxpayers and dismantle regulations issued under the previous Administration.[1] Once again, we fear that the interests of for-profit colleges are being put ahead of students, parents, and what is best for our country and economy.

The gainful employment disclosure provisions that have now received two extensions require career training programs to distribute basic consumer information to prospective students, including the percentage of students who are able to complete on time as well as the typical levels of student loan debt, earnings, and job placement rates among program graduates. This data must be included in promotional and marketing materials and must be proactively provided to students before they enroll or make a financial commitment. The intent of the gainful employment disclosure requirements is to arm students with basic program information to help them make informed decisions about where to enroll and to help them find the right path to an excellent education and a good job that best meets their needs. Unfortunately, the market for higher education and training programs is notoriously opaque and filled with confusing options that vary widely in their return on investment for the students that enroll in them and the taxpayers that subsidize them.

For example, there are programs where only 1 percent of students complete their studies on time. Even for the paltry few who do graduate in one such program, a meager annual income of less than $20,000 can in no way support the repayment of $10,000 in loans.[2] Students around the country deserve to know the outcomes of prospective programs like these up front and well before making any type of financial commitment—and the mere presence of data buried on a website does not achieve the intended goals of the rule. In fact, a recent three-year study of Virginia high schools by the Urban Institute concluded that “simply publishing and marketing earnings data on a website is unlikely to change the behavior of prospective college students.”[3] This data must be provided to students proactively and in the context of their college search process.

The gainful employment disclosure requirements went through an extensive negotiated rulemaking and comment process, which concluded that the disclosures contained vitally important information for students to have in their hands before they sign on the dotted line to take out loans or use up their limited student aid. That process, moreover, generated a set of regulations that have been upheld four separate times by federal courts. The Department’s assertion that the gainful employment regulations “have been repeatedly challenged…and overturned by the courts” is simply incorrect.

If the Department wishes to alter current gainful employment regulations, it is free to do so through a new negotiated rulemaking process – even though we oppose any action that would revise the regulation in ways that harm students and taxpayers. Further, the Department cannot unilaterally delay enforcement of selected provisions of gainful employment, including 34 CFR 668.412 (d) and (e). The Higher Education Act and the Administrative Procedures Act prohibit the Department from altering the requirements of this regulation except through a new negotiated rulemaking and in cases where it is in “good cause” that such a rulemaking session would be “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.” This action to delay gainful employment disclosures fails to meet that basic test.

The Department must implement and enforce current regulations while a new rulemaking process takes place. In the interest of fostering choice and transparency for hard-working students trying to climb the ladder of opportunity and join the middle class, we ask you to reverse course and allow the gainful employment disclosure rules to go into effect immediately. 

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[1] U.S. Department of Education. Announcement of applicable dates; request for comments. 82 FR 30975.

[2] Senate HELP Committee analysis of 2015 Gainful Employment Debt-to-Earnings Rate Data. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Accessed July 10, 2017. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/data-center/school/ge

[3] Blagg, K. Chingos, M., et. al. “Rethinking Consumer Information in Higher Education.” Urban Institute. July 11, 2017. http://www.urban.org/research/publication/rethinking-consumer-information-higher-education

Press Contact

Mairead Lynn: 202-224-5398 (Murray)

Beverly Pheto/Eric Anthony: 202 225-3661 (DeLauro)

Kiara Pesante: 202 226-0853 (Scott)