Attorney General Josh Shapiro Calls On Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to Scrap Plan to Eliminate Key Protections for Students from Predatory For-Profit Schools

September 14, 2018 | Topic: Rights

HARRISBURG— Attorney General Josh Shapiro led a coalition of 21 Attorneys General today to formally oppose U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate the Gainful Employment Rule, which requires schools to provide information about their programs’ costs, debt load, success rate, expected earnings and other critical information so students and families can make informed choices.

In formal comments filed with the U.S. Department of Education today, the Attorneys General argue that Secretary DeVos’ plan to eliminate the Gainful Employment Rule violates the Department’s legal obligations and disregards strong evidence that accountability standards are needed to protect students and taxpayers who interact with these for-profit schools – and often find themselves mired in onerous debt.

“Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration’s move to eliminate the Gainful Employment Ryle is another attempt to prioritize deceptive, for-profit colleges over students working to earn an education,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro.  “The Gainful Employment Rule shields students from fraudulent education programs that leave them buried under debt they are unable to repay.  Repealing it is an attack on students, their families and consumers, and I am fighting to keep these protections in place for Pennsylvania’s students. If Betsy DeVos won’t protect our college students, I will.”

The coalition of 20 state Attorneys General and the District of Columbia’s Attorney General writing to Secretary DeVos is led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

The Gainful Employment Rule enforces the Higher Education Act’s requirement that applicable programs “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”  The rule was prompted by concerns that some career-focused programs leave students with unaffordable levels of debt relative to their post-graduation earnings – leading to widespread loan default.

The Gainful Employment Rule has two key aspects:

  1. The rule helps prospective students make informed choices by requiring schools to provide information about the program’s average debt load, the loan repayment rate of  students who enroll in the program, the percentage of students who graduate, the number of graduates who obtain employment in a field related to the program, and average earnings of graduates.
  2. The rule also assesses whether schools’ programs provide education and training to their students that lead to earnings that will allow students to pay back their student loan debts. If the programs repeatedly fail these metrics, federal student loans and grants would no longer be provided to those programs.

Secretary DeVos’ proposal to do away with the Gainful Employment Rule comes less than a year after a coalition of 19 Attorneys General, including Attorney General Shapiro, sued DeVos and the Department of Education for violating federal law by refusing to enforce this Rule. That lawsuit remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Attorney General Shapiro and his colleague attorneys general argue in their formal comments today to the Education Department that by rescinding the GE Rule without replacing it with similar protections for students, the Department harms students and taxpayers and undermines the Higher Education Act.

In Pennsylvania, the average student loan debt for college graduates in 2016 was $35,759 – the second highest of any state. Pennsylvanians collectively owed $61.8 billion in private and federal student loans as of December 2016.

“If students aren’t gainfully employed following enrollment in a program offered by a for-profit institution, it becomes nearly impossible for them to pay back loan debt for a degree that was supposed to lead to a higher paying job,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Students need to have all the information required to make informed choices about their education, and I’m fighting to make sure Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education are working for them – not deceptive for-profit schools.”

Today’s comments name institutions that have been the subject of state law enforcement actions and which have engaged in predatory practices which the GE Rule was created to protect against.

In addition to Pennsylvania and Maryland, the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia joined in filing today’s formal comments with the Education Department and Secretary DeVos.

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