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Betsy DeVos Is Discarding College Policies That New Evidence Shows Are Effective—And She’s Gutting Civil Rights Enforcement As Well

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Betsy DeVos is a walking disaster area. Kevin Carey reports in the NY Times:

This month, the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, announced plans to dismantle a set of Obama-era policies devised to protect students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges.

Yet data released in the final days of the previous administration shows that the existing rules have proved more effective at shutting down bad college programs than even the most optimistic backers could have hoped.

The rules that Ms. DeVos wants to repeal are called the gainful employment regulations. For all for-profit programs, and any nondegree employment certificate programs at public or nonprofit colleges, the education department compares how much the typical student borrows versus how much they earn after graduation.

If the ratio is too high — if students borrow lots of money and can’t get well-paying jobs — the program is deemed “failing.” A program that fails in two out of three years becomes ineligible for federal financial aid. Since many for-profit programs get up to 90 percent of their revenue through the Department of Education, the penalty will almost surely shut them down.

No program has reached this point yet. Before it could complete the rules, the Obama administration had to spend years fighting through a thicket of lawsuits filed by the for-profit college industry. Eleven days before President Trump’s inauguration, the Department of Education released the first list of failing programs. Ms. DeVos has extended the original deadline for appealing the findings, and recently announced plans to rewrite the rules.

But a close analysis of the more than 500 failing programs that haven’t appealed their status reveals something interesting: A substantial majority of them, 300 or so, have already been shut down — even though colleges are not yet required to do so. The gainful employment test turns out to be an accurate way of identifying programs that for-profit colleges themselves don’t think are worth saving, as well as identifying programs run by colleges that are on the brink of bankruptcy and dissolution.

Some of the failing programs were run by ITT Tech, a publicly traded chain of technical schools that collapsed under a wave of consumer lawsuits and government investigations in 2016. Dozens of other for-profits have failed in recent years, from mom-and-pop hairdressing academies to business schools with dozens of programs in multiple states.

The gainful employment results suggest why. Students who earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design at Sanford-Brown College’s now-defunct Chicago campus left school with over $45,000 in federal and institutional loans. But they earned less than $21,000 per year, before taxes, food and rent. That’s barely above the minimum wage for a family of three. Only 29 percent of students who started the program graduated on time.

Sanford-Brown operated for years with results like this, until the education department stepped in. Announcing that the entire chain would shutter, Ron McCray, C.E.O. of Sanford-Brown’s parent corporation, cited a “challenging regulatory environment” and “the gainful employment regulations issued last year.” In other words, rather than invest the time and money necessary to offer affordable programs that lead to well-paying jobs, they simply closed up shop. . .

Continue reading.

And as if that were not enough, Annie Waldman reports in ProPublica:

In a letter sent today, more than 30 Democratic senators rebuked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for scaling back civil rights enforcement at the Department of Education.

“You claim to support civil rights and oppose discrimination, but your actions belie your assurances,” wrote the senators, who said that the secretary’s recent moves to curtail civil rights efforts heightened their longstanding concerns about her commitment to protecting students from discrimination and harassment.

As ProPublica has reported, the Department of Education quietly laid out plans to scale back investigations into civil rights complaints in an internal staff memo earlier this month.

Under the Obama administration, the department’s civil rights investigators applied a broad approach to investigating complaints, often widening probes to look for patterns of harassment or discrimination in schools or districts. Investigators were frequently required to obtain multiple years of data to assess whether civil rights violations were systemic in nature.

In the recent memo, acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson instructed her staff to narrow this approach. Under the new directive, civil rights staffers will only look for systemic violations if the original complaint raises such concerns or the investigative team suggests it.

“Limiting use of the systematic approach may cause investigators to miss issues of pervasive discrimination or civil rights abuses,” wrote the senators in their letter.

The Education Department did not respond to ProPublica’s request for comment.

While the department has contended that the new approach will speed up the office’s investigations into complaints, DeVos’ recent budget proposal sets out plans to cut over 40 staffers from the office for civil rights, which could limit investigations. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2017 at 5:37 pm

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