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July 21 2014

IWF Signs Letter Urging Department of Education to Reconsider New Rule Proposal

Victoria Coley

Recently, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the Gainful Employment regulation was being drafted for private-sector colleges and universities and the new regulations are not welcome news for low-income and minority students. When looking at how to evaluate which schools will qualify for program opportunities under the Gainful Employment rule, the new regulation would use the amount of debt the average student incurs, compared to their income. The Independent Women's Forum signed onto a letter sent by the Hispanic Leadership Fund urging DOE to rethink the rule because it “is not a fair measure of a program's worth, especially given that colleges do not control the amount of debt students undertake.” The letter was also cosigned by Americans for Limited Government, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, American Commitment, Frontiers of Freedom, Business Coalition for Fair Competition, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, and the Cost of Government Center.

Read the full letter below:


July 21, 2014

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

We are writing to express grave concerns regarding the Gainful Employment regulation your department has drafted for private-sector colleges and universities. While we applaud your department's interest in ensuring students are not saddled with debt they cannot repay, we are concerned the regulation will instead limit opportunities for low-income and minority Americans to earn a degree and seek better careers.

For-profit colleges offer unique opportunities for students who have often been left behind in the higher education system. They cater to students who have been unable to transition directly from high school to college and offer career and academic services to help them succeed in school and beyond. Without these programs, many low-income and minority students would be left without comparable educational opportunities, thus severely hindering their chances to secure better jobs.

Given the student body population, it is not surprising that for-profit college students take out larger loans and incur more debt. It is also not surprising that graduation rates at these schools may be lower than traditional colleges and universities that enroll relatively few low-income students. However, that does not mean these schools do not offer valuable educational opportunities, and it certainly does not mean students should be denied the chance to further their education and career.

Students who graduate from private-sector two-year and shorter programs have seen an average annual income increase of 54 percent, and bachelor's degree graduates earn an average additional $60,000 in the first 10 years after graduation. The Gainful Employment rule would deny nearly 3.4 million students access to career programs of their choice for the remainder of this decade. That includes more than 200,000 veterans, nearly 631,000 African Americans, more than 623,000 Hispanics and more than 1.8 million Pell Grant eligible students. These are the nation's most vulnerable students, yet your regulation would limit their education opportunities, rather than multiply them.

For-profit colleges and universities are training the very people our country's employers need most. Private-sector college graduates go on to jobs in high-growth, high-demand fields, such as healthcare, technology and business. They also train people for jobs in critical public sector areas, including law enforcement and education. Community colleges and other nonprofit programs do not have the support programs and other resources to educate the students potentially displaced by the Gainful Employment rule.

The proposed regulation does not judge for-profit schools based on the quality of the education they provide, their accreditation or graduation rate. Instead, the rule would assess the schools based on the amount of debt the average student incurs, compared to their income. This is not a fair measure of a program's worth, especially given that colleges do not control the amount of debt students undertake.

We believe over borrowing is indeed a major factor in our nation's student debt crisis, and one that specifically befalls minority students. Given that the federal government authorizes and runs the bulk of these loan programs, you are in a unique position to foster real change on this front. We urge you to address this issue head on, not by limiting educational opportunities, but by, for example, taking steps to inform students about borrowing money so that loans more accurately reflect tuition costs.

In closing, we ask you to reconsider your approach in ensuring low-income and minority students continue to receive valuable educational opportunities. Rather than undergoing measures that would eliminate many quality programs, the Department should seek to strengthen all postsecondary education by increasing transparency and fostering innovative solutions towards closing our country's achievement gap.

Sincerely,

Mario H. Lopez, President, Hispanic Leadership Fund
Nathan Mehrens, President, Americans for Limited Government
Sabrina L. Schaeffer, Executive Director, Independent Women's Forum
Phil Kerpen, President, American Commitment
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
John M. Palatiello, President, Business Coalition for Fair Competition
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Timothy H. Lee, Senior Vice President, Legal & Public Affairs, Center for Individual Freedom
Mattie Duppler, Executive Director, Cost of Government Center

CC:
Ms. Cecilia Muñoz,
Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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