A Bipartisan Issue: Gainful Employment

“Can you think of any other issue that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the current Speaker John Boehner agree on?” asked Lanny Davis, a former legal counsel to President Clinton. “The policy is so wrongheaded that it brings liberals and conservatives together.”

So what is this magnificent force that is uniting these unlikely allies? It is President Obama’s proposed gainful employment regulation on for-profit colleges. A number of these for-profit colleges provide training for job positions ranging from plumbing to computer technicians. The programs being offered by these colleges allow members of lower-income families seeking to improve their financial status greater flexibility in scheduling options. Also, many of these schools offer loans to low-income minority students.

The gainful employment rule holds for-profit colleges responsible for ensuring that their students remain at or below an 8% debt-to-income ratio. The Department of Education is using “black box” data from the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration as a basis on which to determine to what extent for-profit colleges succeed in this objective. For-profit colleges do not have access to this information. They only have access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In addition, the base of data that is being used by the DoED has been derived solely from within the state of Missouri. Statistical averages of how cost of living may play a part amongst varying geographic locations in determining whether or not this 8% baseline is genuinely feasible has not been taken into consideration in the mandates being set by the DoED. In other words, the DoED is using a narrow scope of data as a basis for establishing a broad-spectrum educational policy.

If the students do not stay at or below the 8% debt-to-income ratio defined by the DoED, the federal government can withdraw financial aid from these schools, driving these schools out of business.

The National Black Chamber of Commerce in particular is very concerned about the impact that this legislation might have for lower-income citizens of all races, but primarily for African American and Hispanics.

In February of 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted against this proposal 289-136. Yet in spite of the overwhelming response on the part of the House of Representatives, the Obama administration is moving forward with plans to implement this proposal into law, behind closed doors, with a sense of urgency and no transparency to speak of.

This has prompted Congressman Edolphus Towns to submit a letter to Congressman Daryl Issa and Congressman Elijah Cummings, who are both members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requesting that an oversight investigation be conducted regarding the manner in which the Obama administration is moving forward with its plans.

Points to consider…

1) Are there some for-profit schools that might be misusing the finances being provided to them by the government? Yes, but the same could easily be said for not-for-profit and public education institutions. If the problem is misuse of funds, then why aren’t all schools being evaluated in the proposal being presented by the administration rather than only for-profit institutions?

2) If for-profit institutions go under, who stands to gain the most from that outcome? Public and not-for-profit educational institutions and, through those institutions, Teachers’ Unions stand to gain the most. This could translate into an increase in employment for Teachers’ Union members along with high-dollar health care plans and pension programs.

3) From the viewpoint of stock trading, there are already reports that for-profit school stock is being sold short on the market, which indicates that someone has either leaked this information in advance or an individual/group of individuals has a great deal to gain financially from these seeing these institutions fail.

4) For-profit educational institutions do not follow a mandate regarding the curriculum they may or not present to their students in the same manner that not-for-profit or public educational institutions are required to do. This piece of legislation, if it is allowed to proceed, could have vast implications for all for-profit educational institutions in the future and limit the educational options being presented to citizens of our nation.

5) When members of Congress voted to “deem” Obamacare as law, in following President Obama’s lead and at his encouragement, they bypassed due process as provided in the Constitution of the United States. Since that time, President Obama has indicated through his actions that he is willing to bypass Constitutional law in other areas as well, such as failing to seek the approval of Congress for extension of the War Powers Act for his “kinetic military action” that is being conducted in Libya. With these things in mind, what reason do either Republicans or Democrats have to believe that he will stay within the constructs of the Constitution regarding other issues, such as the current issue of gainful employment legislation?

All factors being considered, this particular legislation and how Congress responds to it is something that we should keep a close eye on. It could be a point whereby we begin to see bipartisan efforts made on the part of Legislative branch of our government to restore a balance in power by carefully and studiously reviewing each action on the part of the Executive branch of government.

In the meantime, we can and should learn as much about these topics as possible, then contact our local representatives to let them know where we the people stand on these issues. This much at least we should hold ourselves responsible to do.









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