Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Chancellor Henry Herzing of Herzing University, and Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, held a conference call today to blast the Obama administration’s decision to unilaterally impose a new rule on career colleges that, in Herzing’s words, unfairly burdens those schools with the “responsibility to regulate student borrowing without the authority” to do so. Rep. Hastings repeatedly slammed the Dept. of Education’s “Gainful Employment” rule, and the impact it will have on minority students who seek higher education and job training at career colleges and privately owned universities. He also emphasized that a broad bipartisan coalition has come together both to fight the rule, and to determine how the Department of Education drafted it in the first place. Hastings was unequivocal, that the DoE’s ruling is wrong and Congress will fight it.
Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, emphasized that his group defends free markets, and that the DoE’s ruling will harm a disproportionate number of students who are minorities, single mothers, returning veterans and others who seek a better life through educational advancement at career colleges. Lopez characterized the “Gainful Employment” ruling as a “huge story” due to how many people, all across the ideological spectrum, the DoE is “blowing off” in insisting on making this rule stick.
I asked Rep. Hastings about the DoE’s motive in pushing ahead with the ruling despite all of the criticism and Congressional action against it. While he did not try to describe the D0E’s motives, the Florida Democrat did note repeatedly that the ruling unfairly targets career colleges and the students who choose to attend them. He also strongly questioned why the DoE is still touting a Government Accounting Office survey that backed the DoE’s case, but has also been shown to be fatally flawed. Hastings also brought up the fact that career colleges offer many Americans, primarily from the lower economic strata, as good a job-related education as the nation’s Ivy League schools and other major universities do, yet the DoE isn’t forcing them to disclose their post-graduation employment statistics. He even noted that by the “Gainful Employment” rule’s standards, many Ivy League schools would find themselves in jeopardy — if the rule was applied to them, which it is not. Hastings and Lopez both noted that the broad bipartisan coalition against the “Gainful Employment” rule includes the entire Republican House caucus as well as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and current DNC chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The coalition includes 58 House Democrats.
With Hastings and the Hispanic Leadership Fund joining the fight, this story isn’t going away for the Obama administration any time soon. The Department of Education now probably faces FOIA requests and Hill testimony to get to the bottom of why it is imposing this rule on career colleges and for-profit universities without imposing anything similar on non-profit and state schools.
The “Gainful Employment” rule, if implemented, will force career colleges to disclose post-graduation employment statistics but will impose no disclosure requirements on non-profit schools and universities and carries penalties against such schools. Employment alone isn’t good enough — the “GE” rule demands “meaningful employment,” enough to pay down student loans, which in the current economy may become a death sentence on schools that have done nothing wrong. Supposedly imposed in the name of protecting students from excessive student loan debt, in Obama’s economy the rule would almost certainly destroy many independent private sector job training programs nationwide. Rep. Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat, has already called for an investigation into the Department of Education’s process in forumlating the rule. The US House rejected the “Gainful Employment” rule; DoE is attempting to impose it by fiat.
I have strongly criticized Rep. Hastings in the past for his conviction and impeachment on bribery charges when he was a federal judge. Hastings also faces a Judicial Watch lawsuit for sexual harassment. But he is right on this issue in my opinion. The Obama administration has demonstrated a clear pattern us using the executive branch’s bureaucracies to impose very questionable regulations without Congressional input, and often against the will of the Congress. Hastings and others who are taking this issue on are to be commended and supported.