On Saturday, The Hill published an article that discussed how Senate Democrats and for-profit educators were sparring over the Department of Education’s proposed gainful employment restriction. The article noted:
‘High student loan debt coupled with low repayment rates signal a questionable investment for students and taxpayers,’ the Democrats wrote Thursday in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. ‘We encourage swift implementation of the gainful employment regulation and would be concerned with any efforts to weaken the proposal.’
In their haste to see the Department of Education implement the gainful employment rule, some Democrats have overlooked an important point –the gainful employment rule will harm the very people who most deserve increased access to higher education. Students at for-profit schools are disproportionately low-income and minority students who come from working class families. These hardworking students from non-traditional backgrounds are often not privileged with the same means, support systems or opportunity as their peers who attend traditional colleges and universities. That may explain why “for-profit colleges make up roughly 10 percent of college students but 44 percent of student loan defaults.”
Those who have argued for the gainful employment rule have consistently failed to look at the statistics within the context of the type of students’ attending for-profit higher education. Many of those engaged in this debate have ignored that these students enrolled in the for-profit sector come from at-risk backgrounds where the non-traditional approaches and flexible schedules of for-profit education make graduation a possibility. These students deserve our support, especially in this recession.
Without for-profit schools, many low-income and minority students would not have an option in higher education. Access to higher education remains an issue that rule-makers and their supporters should take into account before they cut off support for thousands of students.