DC Shuttle: Gainful Employment and Other Higher Ed News from Washington

The U.S. Education Department is going ahead with its proposed “gainful employment” rules for for-profit colleges, despite industry advocates calling on Congress and the courts to intervene. Originally scheduled to be issued last September, Education Secretary Arne Duncan delayed the regulations after receiving about 90,000 letters on the issue, most of them in opposition. The most recent version of the regulations, which would make federal funding to for-profit institutions conditional on their meeting several metrics based on academic quality and graduates’ ability to repay student loans, was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on May 2 for review. The Department of Education is already planning to form another negotiated rulemaking committee, although it has not indicated a possible subject for the proposed rulemaking. Roundtable discussions and hearings this month will address teacher preparation, improving college completion, and student loans.
The U.S. Department of Justice is joining a whistle-blower lawsuit against Education Management Corp. for alleged illegal student recruitment practices at its for-profit colleges. The suit, brought in federal court in Pittsburgh, PA, alleges that Education Management paid incentives to its college recruiters based on how many students they enrolled. Education Management is the second-largest operator of for-profit colleges, covering more than 148,000 students around the country. The Education Department has been pursuing stricter regulations on for-profit colleges since 2009, and new rules are scheduled to go into effect in July. These rules would, among other measures, remove 12 exceptions to the prohibition against incentive payment to college recruiters.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on Thursday detailing problems with the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs was charged with implementing the program which was expanded significantly in its last authorization, and the GAO report concluded that it could have worked more closely with the Education Department and other parties. College officials have noted several of the issues address in the GAO report, including the long delays often involved in processing a veteran’s benefits.

A survey of correctional facilities in 43 states found that only 6% of prisoners were enrolled in vocational or postsecondary academic programs during the 2009-10 school year, and 86% of those enrolled were concentrated in 13 states. The survey, conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, argued that increasing prison access to educational programs could reduce recidivism and in turn reduce the country’s prison costs—around $52 billion per year for 2.3 million prisoners, according to the survey. It also recommends that “federal and state statutes should be amended to make specific categories of incarcerated persons eligible for financial aid.” Prisoner enrollment in continuing education dropped off sharply following a 1994 law making federal and state prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants.

In a proposal for a new national security and prosperity strategy, Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy and Colonel Mark Mykleby of the U.S. Marine Corps argued that supporting education is critical to maintaining our national security. They contend that investment in education, workforce development, and economic competitiveness is tantamount to investment in future international influence. “Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health, and social services.”

From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, May 9, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and will publish this column each week.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a non-partisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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