Rule targets for-profit colleges over student debt


WASHINGTON (AP) — The for-profit college industry says it
will vigorously oppose proposed regulations by the Obama administration
designed to protect students at for-profit colleges from amassing huge
debt they can’t pay off.
The proposed regulations would penalize
career training programs that produce graduates without the training
needed to find a job with a salary that will allow them to pay off their
debt. Schools, for-profit or not, that don’t comply would lose access
to the federal student aid programs.
"Career-training programs
offer millions of Americans an opportunity they desperately need to
further their education and reach the middle class," Education Secretary
Arne Duncan told reporters Thursday. "Today, too many of these programs
fail to provide students with the training that they need at taxpayers’
expense and the cost to these students’ futures."
If finalized, the regulations would take effect in 2016.
2012, the for-profit colleges convinced a judge that similar
regulations were too arbitrary. Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of
the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said in a
statement that the proposed regulations would "deny millions of students
the opportunity for higher earnings." His association argues that the
regulations would have a long-term impact on the nation’s ability to
address workforce demands and improve the economy.
For-profit programs are popular among non-traditional students, some of who have been laid off during the
economic downturn.
"The government should be in the business protecting opportunity not restricting it," Gunderson
administration has long sought to block federal student aid from
programs that do not prepare students for "gainful employment" in a
recognized occupation. The programs covered under the proposed
regulations include nearly all programs at for-profit schools, as well
as certificate programs at public and private non-profit institutions,
such as community colleges, according to the Education Department.
said for-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue
from federal financial aid programs. If blocked from participating, some
could be forced to close, he said.
"Some of these programs —
whether public, private or for-profit — empower students to succeed by
providing high-quality education and career training. But many of these
programs, particularly those at for-profit colleges, are failing to do
so," the Education Department said in a fact sheet.
The latest
proposal closely follows those that were struck down in 2012 by U.S.
District Judge Rudolph Contreras, but it makes technical changes
tailored to the court’s concerns that the benchmarks were arbitrary.
"We tried to base that on expert research and mortgage industry standards for acceptable levels of
debt," Duncan said.
instance, a typical graduate should not pay more than 20 percent of his
or her discretionary income to repaying loans. The previous regulations
sought a limit of 30 percent of that income going to repayment.
proposed regulation also says graduates should not be paying more than 8
percent of their total income to student loans. The department
previously sought a 12 percent cap.
The proposed regulations also set a default rate of no more than 30 percent.
many cases, students who graduate from Education Department-approved
programs would keep a greater percentage of their paychecks in their
Education Department reports show for-profit programs
account for about 13 percent of all college students but 46 percent of
all loan defaults.
At the same time, 22 percent of for-profit
student borrowers defaulted on their loans within three years. At public
colleges, that number is 13 percent of borrowers.
And for schools
that the Education Department could review, 72 percent of for-profit
colleges produce graduates who earn less than high school dropouts.
Duncan said the proposed regulations "target those who are both failing students and
The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed regulations.
AP Education Writer Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.
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