Opinion Piece in The Hill: Hearing or head hunting?

Today, my opinion piece was published on The Hill’s Congress blog. The piece argues that as our Senator, Tom Harkin (D-IA) should look across the national landscape to find ways to increase the number of students in higher education and to encourage education paths for those Americans who will not be able to receive at a traditional non-profit school or public college or university, rather than go after for-profit colleges and universities. See below for an excerpt:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), has scheduled a hearing entitled Bridgepoint Education, Inc.: A Case study in For-Profit Education and Oversight. The premise for his hearings has been to investigate the Department of Education. However, it appears that this is a subterfuge for portraying the for-profit sector in the worst possible light in order to restrict students’ access to career-oriented colleges.

In a press release announcing this Thursday’s upcoming hearing, Chairman Harkin noted that the lone target of his “case study” [Bridgepoint Education] was singled-out because more than 60% of their bachelor’s degree students had withdrawn before finishing their degrees.

Click here to read the full piece.

My Words in The Hill

On Tuesday, a letter to the editor I submitted to The Hill was published in response to an August 19th opinion piece by former Governor McKernan (R-ME). The op-ed asked the Department of Education to refrain from discriminating against for-profit colleges and re-think their proposed gainful employment rule. See below for my letter:

Critics of private sector education have been working overtime over the past few months. And despite some bad behavior from a few for-profit providers, there is substantial misunderstanding of this sector of higher education and the real consequences of the Department of Education’s proposed actions.

The Department of Education’s proposed gainful employment rule endeavors to curb rampant student debt; actually it has the potential to limit educational opportunities for thousands of students across the country. In his opinion piece “Don’t discriminate against proprietary colleges”, Governor McKernan notes that the purpose of federal student aid is to provide access by helping disadvantaged students reach their potential. Unfortunately, the gainful employment rule will achieve just the opposite – limiting access.

Whereas private sector schools provide low-income and non-traditional students with educational access and opportunity, the gainful employment rule moves to strip that opportunity from some of the most vulnerable students.

The gainful employment rule has the potential to hurt the very students it was written to help, as Governor McKernan notes. Instead of helping, it undermines the true congressional intention of Title IV grants and loans. As a vehicle to enable opportunity in education, Title IV’s purpose is undermined as the gainful employment rule strips away access and becomes fundamentally altered if implemented as currently written.

Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution to combat student debt, the Department of Education and Congress should strive to hear from those most affected by the proposed rule. I fear that the most vulnerable student will be the real losers.