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AV Responds to Gainful Employment Rules

The Department of Education should continue to bolster regulations aimed at low-performing, low-value programs.

As part of the federal rulemaking process, Arnold Ventures submitted comments encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to support and bolster regulations relating to gainful employment, financial value transparency, and other policies aimed at ending predatory behavior in higher education and increasing the return on investment for both students and taxpayers.

We support the Department’s efforts to sharpen its focus on student outcomes, providing students in all sectors with actionable information about their programs and offering students in career-training programs, and the taxpayers who finance those programs, real protections from low-performing, low-value programs,” Kelly McManus, Arnold Ventures’ vice president of higher education, writes in her introduction to the comments. We also support the other protections the Education Department has proposed to strengthen accountability.”

These regulatory efforts are particularly important for students who attend for-profit colleges, which leave students with higher debt, and nondegree programs, which often yield a lower return on their earnings potential. 

Higher education can offer true economic mobility; but too often, the lowest-performing of these programs serve only as an expensive path to low-wage jobs,” McManus writes. 

In order to ensure gainful employment and other regulations hold higher education institutions accountable to students and taxpayers, and fulfill their promise of serving as a ladder to well-paying careers, Arnold Ventures has issued some specific policy recommendations, including:

  • Providing disclosures about low-earnings programs to all students
  • Counting and reporting the total amount of debt required to complete a program
  • Raising the earnings threshold for graduate programs
  • Considering safe harbors for programs in persistent poverty counties
  • Fully investigating and regularly evaluating problematic institutions
  • Strengthening states’ ability to enforce consumer protection laws
  • Clarifying when financial protection should be considered for schools with fluctuations in federal aid volume or high dropout rates
  • Ensuring the Department considers student outcomes during the recertification process

Arnold Ventures also recommends that Congress work to implement broad-based, sector-neutral accountability standards across the entire postsecondary education system to ensure that all programs are required to demonstrate value in exchange for the federal dollars they receive.

Read the entire comments here.