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DeVos Carries Out ALEC’s Agenda By Dismantling For-Profit College Accountability

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DeVos Carries Out ALEC’s Agenda By Dismantling For-Profit College Accountability

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Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

In a little-noticed action, on August 18, the Department of Education announced a rule change that will further loosen accountability of for-profit colleges. The move signals a continuation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ American Legislative Exchange Council-inspired agenda: favoring the interests of fraudulent for-profit colleges over victimized students, and dismantling higher education accountability structures.

In 2010, the administration of then-President Barack Obama announced new rules designed to ensure that for-profit career preparatory colleges yielded appropriate levels of “gainful employment” for their graduates. According to The Washington Post, the rule “effectively would shut down for-profit programs that repeatedly fail to show, through certain measures, that graduates are earning enough to pay down the loans taken out to attend those programs.” After a series of court challenges, and a process of negotiated rulemaking, the final guidelines were set to be instituted on July 1, 2017. Even before the rules were implemented, evidence indicated that the pending gainful employment regulations were already having an impact, with many colleges proactively shutting down programs that might have been noncompliant.

Back in 2010, right-wing media were up in arms over Obama’s efforts to make changes to gainful employment rules. For instance, Breitbart.com claimed it was a sign that “for-profit education” was “under assault” and thatObama was “intentionally targeting job-creating schools.” The Daily Caller asserted that the Department of Education couldn’t be trusted to fairly renegotiate these rules.

On July 20, DeVos spoke before the annual convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill that shares model right-wing legislation with sympathetic state legislators. In her speech, she outlined a vision of higher education that includes changes to the gainful employment rule. DeVos characterized the Obama administration rewrite of the rule as “textbook overreach,” claiming it was part of an “administration-wide war on every type of organization they didn’t like.” Several for-profit colleges and trade groups are past or current members of ALEC, including the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (the trade association of for-profit schools), Bridgepoint Education, Corinthian Colleges, and Kaplan Higher Education.

One month later, on August 18, the Department of Education published new revisions to the gainful employment rule, circumventing the normal rulemaking process. The revisions change the process by which colleges can appeal violations of the gainful employment rule, and according to Consumerist, they “appear to tip the appeals process in the college’s favor.” The new rules eliminate guidelines specifying what data would be considered representative of the student body. Now a college can appeal using any data it chooses, and “DeVos would determine what is reliable on her own.”

The new rule will likely make it easier for for-profit colleges to successfully avoid being sanctioned under the gainful employment rules. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, responded to the change by stating, “It’s clear Secretary DeVos has no intention of enforcing rules that protect students and instead is once again prioritizing predatory corporations and for-profit colleges.”

In addition to the gainful employment rule change, DeVos has made other rule changes that benefit for-profit colleges. She elected to delay implementation of the borrower’s defense provision, which would have provided debt relief to students who were defrauded by for-profit universities. As of July 26, she had failed to approve a single application from over 65,000 students who applied for relief from debt accrued while attending now-shuttered for-profit colleges.

The New York Times questioned whether DeVos’ Department of Education could be impartial about for-profit colleges when she appointed Richard Eitel, who had worked for a company that runs the troubled for-profit college chain Ashford University, to a special adviser position. DeVos also hired Taylor Hansen, a for-profit college lobbyist, onto her transition team. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questioned DeVos over Hansen’s many conflicts of interest, and he resigned the same day. In addition, there are a substantial number of Education Department staffers with ties to dark-money “education reform” echo chamber groups that seek less accountability for for-profit institutions.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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19 Comments

  1. Carl Sdano August 26, 2017

    When an education system is based on its stock market results, what could possibly go wrong?

    Reply
  2. TZToronto August 26, 2017

    Trump wants to bring jobs back to America. Of course, many graduate of phony for-profit colleges don’t have the skills required to fill these positions, and that’s too bad for the graduates, I guess. Now, about that student loan that got you absolutely nothing.. . . .

    Reply
    1. Independent1 August 26, 2017

      If Trump really wants to bring jobs back to America, he’s going about it in a funny way; because virtually everything he and his administration have done is setting businesses across the nation up for failure: by deporting thousands of immigrants who do jobs native-born Americans won’t do; by revamping the rules by which new immigrants are allowed into the country; by alienating virtually every U.S. trading partner; and by setting tariff and other trading rules that are costing American companies jobs and profits.

      America’s CEOs realized the deals they’d cut with Trump aren’t worth it — Detroit’s experience shows us why
      https://finance.yahoo.com/news/americas-ceos-realized-deals-theyd-175900457.html

      Trump’s Tariffs Would Kill These American Jobs
      https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/c3cdea2b-5788-39dd-ad64-c08cdd0bb0c2/ss_trump%E2%80%99s-tariffs-would-kill.html

      Trump tried to save their jobs. These workers are quitting anyway.
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-tried-to-save-their-jobs-these-workers-are-quitting-anyway/2017/08/15/6a555f2a-7d50-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.0ece01c5eae7&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

      The Chinese Are About to Take Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to the Cleaners
      http://www.thedailybeast.com/the-chinese-are-about-to-take-jared-kushner-and-ivanka-trump-to-the-cleaners

      Reply
    2. idamag August 27, 2017

      The Koch brothers have already gave large donations to midwestern colleges with strings attached. Their methodology will probably not work with northeastern seaboard colleges nor with western seaboard colleges.

      Reply
  3. FireBaron August 26, 2017

    Considering she fought like Hell against the State of Michigan to remove accountability from her for-profit ElHi system, was there any doubt she would go to bat for the collegiate level programs, too? So, a bunch of schools that cannot be accredited will find themselves without oversight so they can continue to suck at the federal teat of student loans, the GI Bill programs, etc.

    Reply
    1. Independent1 August 26, 2017

      The number of ways that Trump and his administration are setting Americans up to get screwed just keep growing and growing and growing. At some point, everything is going to come to a head and job creation and the economy are going to crash. There are already thousands of businesses in America that are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill jobs both at both ends of the spectrum – the manual labor that many companies need just to keep functioning and at the highly skilled level that many companies need to prepare America for the future.

      And a lot of the existing job shortages are due to Trump deporting immigrants and redefining the rules by which America lets immigrants in; and by what you’ve described about how DeVos is setting millions of Americans to be suckered into paying for educations that won’t qualify them for tomorrow’s jobs.

      Reply
      1. idamag August 27, 2017

        As much as I hate to see people suffer, maybe a crash will save us from total fascism.

        Reply
        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 27, 2017

          Yes, it is unfortunate that most people prefer to get their heads bashed in by nonsense in order to see the light.

          Reply
      2. Dominick Vila August 28, 2017

        The last thing we need as a nation, at a time when U.S. corporations are asking the government to relax immigration laws to increase the number of foreign professionals entering the USA to satisfy demand in the high tech sector, Trump’s Department of education is lowering educational standards in favor of promoting divine concepts that we need like we need a hole in the head. If this is what Trump means by Making America Great Again, we are in deeper trouble than we think.

        Reply
    2. idamag August 27, 2017

      And you have no way of knowing how long the republicans are going to allow “federal teat” for the many. That is money the rich doesn’t get.

      Reply
  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 26, 2017

    As dangerous and unstable the Alt-Right is, ALEC is just as bad if not worse. With the Alt-Right, you know what their agenda is up front, out in the open—much easier to see what lies ahead. But with ALEC, a little known stealth Conservative outfit that works largely undercover, manipulating American institutions to do this conglomerate’s bidding, poses a uniquely injurious effect. Like a cancer slowly developing undetected, ALEC works in secret to undermine America’s stability—doing a more effective job than Putin and his manipulation of Trump and Trump’s hoi polloi allies in Arizona and elsewhere.

    Trump may or may not know about ALEC, but he is the perfect agent in today’s uncertainty to further its agenda.

    Reply
    1. bobnstuff August 27, 2017

      ALEC is funded by the Koch Bro. need I say more.
      https://www.thenation.com/article/alec-exposed-koch-connection/

      Reply
  5. Mama Bear August 27, 2017

    Once the conservative/evilgelical/alt-right takeover is complete there will not be any real education in this country except the propaganda those groups want to become fact.

    Reply
    1. idamag August 27, 2017

      You said it exactly how it is.

      Reply
      1. Mama Bear August 27, 2017

        and it is one of the saddest things I have had to acknowledge.

        Reply
    2. Dominick Vila August 28, 2017

      …and when that happens, they will blame Obama, Mexicans, Muslims, and just about anyone else but themselves for the catastrophe they are creating.

      Reply
  6. idamag August 27, 2017

    DeVos is evil. Part of their agenda is to deregulate charter schools. This puts us closer to total fascism every day.

    Reply
  7. Richard Prescott August 27, 2017

    The majority of Trump’s appointments were total bull.
    I have a feeling that if allowed DeVos will end up ruining public education so badly that the only people who will get any real learning will have to pay for it, like in boarding schools and such. Pretty much like N. Korea.
    The way to rule a country using hate, fear and intolerance is by keeping the people really dumb so they can easily be swayed by propaganda of the “State”.

    Reply
  8. 788eddie August 28, 2017

    ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, in my humble opinion, is a traitorous organization, run by traitorous individuals. And they should be treated as the traitors they are. They do not have the good of the American people at heart. The only thng they have in their hearts is their own greed.

    I feel that there is nothing more anti-American than ALEC!

    Reply

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