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Post date: September 14 2018

Attorney General Underwood Calls On Education Secretary Betsy Devos To Scrap Plan To Eliminate Key Protections For Students From Predatory For-Profit Schools

News from the New York Attorney General's Office 

September 14, 2018

Attorney General's Office Press Office / 212-416-8060 


Gainful Employment Rule Helps Ensure that Students Can Make Informed Decisions – and Not be Left Vulnerable to Exploitation and Fraud by Deceptive For-Profit Colleges 

NEW YORK — Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood part of a coalition of 21 Attorneys General  today formally opposed U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate the Gainful Employment Rule a critical federal protection for students who attend for-profit educational institutions. 

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.

“The Trump-DeVos Department of Education continues to put special interests ahead of the students they’re supposed to serve and our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to fight back,” said Attorney General Underwood. “The Gainful Employment Rule plays a vital role in ensuring students can make informed decisions about their education, rather than leaving them with a mountain of debt. By seeking to eliminate the rule, Secretary DeVos is willfully allowing students to be left vulnerable to exploitation and fraud by deceptive for-profit colleges.”

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 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.

The Attorneys General argue in their formal comments today that by rescinding the Gainful Employment Rule without replacing it with similar protections for students, the Department harms students and taxpayers and undermines the Higher Education Act.

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

The coalition was led by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania and Maryland and includes 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.