Rescinding the gainful employment rule will create a vacuum of information about vocational institutions

Nov 20, 2018 by

Rescinding the gainful-employment rule will mean important performance data will disappear from public view, write Paul Glastris and Robert Kelchen.

In late summer, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that her department will repeal the gainful-employment rule, one of Barack Obama’s hallmark efforts to hold colleges more accountable for their performance. Released in the Obama administration’s final weeks, after years of resistance from Republicans and the for-profit college industry, the regulation — which never went into effect under the Trump administration — would have cut off federal financial aid to career-focused institutions whose graduates earn so little that they can’t pay back their loans.

DeVos’s decision has since drawn a legal challenge, her department recently blew a deadline in the process to rescind it, and newly empowered House Democrats may try to further delay or even scuttle it by tying a return to the Obama-era gainful-employment regulations onto a must-pass funding bill. But if her decision ultimately stands, tens of billions of federal tax dollars will continue to flow to subpar vocational certificate programs in fields like auto mechanics and cosmetology, which are typically offered by for-profit schools and community colleges.

But DeVos’s decision will have another, less appreciated consequence. To administer the gainful-employment rule, the department created a database of information on the annual median earnings and debt levels of graduates of vocational certificate programs. This granular data provides an unparalleled window into the country’s vocational education system, which millions of working-class Americans — many of whom voted for Donald Trump — rely on to obtain economic security. That window will now be boarded up.

Source: Rescinding the gainful employment rule will create a vacuum of information about vocational institutions (opinion)

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