11/16/2018

Take the survey: Prevent rogue colleges from exploiting students

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is once again failing students by allowing for-profit colleges to run amok. This time she’s attacking the gainful employment rule, a measure designed to ensure that the education colleges offer their students actually prepares them for “gainful employment,” that is, a well-paying job.

The AFT is taking a head count of our members who will be affected by DeVos’ newest attack, through a survey about college attendance. If you are considering attending a for-profit college for a degree or other certification, we want to hear from you.

Here’s the scoop: Currently colleges are required to show that their graduates can earn enough money to pay back their student loans, and they must publish warnings if they are not meeting those requirements. DeVos wants to roll back that requirement and has stalled the release of data that could steer new students away from less successful colleges and programs.

Softening the regulations will have the most impact on attendance at for-profit colleges, some of which are notorious for taking students’ financial aid money and providing substandard programs that leave them with student debt but insufficient skills to find work after graduation. “Predatory practices by certain so-called colleges across the country have financially gutted working people—many of them first-generation college students, veterans and people of color—while offering them the false hope of a good job and a fair wage,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “They get taxpayer funding, yet they are leaving students with heftier debt, have a remarkably high churn rate and, in many cases, aren’t doing an adequate job to prepare students for the 21st century.”

This is not the first time DeVos has tried to loosen regulations that protect students. She’s also tried to eliminate loan forgiveness for students whose colleges failed so egregiously that they were forced to shut down. She’s dialed back rules that prevent loan servicers from leading students into more debt by misinforming them of their loan repayment options. She’s attempted to expand the definition of “credit hour,” which would allow schools to get more financial aid for less education through credit inflation. And she’s tried to recalculate the amount of interaction students have with faculty, particularly in online learning platforms.

The AFT has been monitoring these changes and speaking out at public hearings to protest any infringement on protections for students. Currently, it is partnering with the National Student Legal Defense Network to identify members who may be affected by the gainful employment changes—people who are seeking to attend schools that are not publishing information about their graduates’ employment failures. A survey for these members is posted here

The AFT is also urging potential students to consider programs at public colleges and universities, where tuition is typically far lower and programs are more reliable.

If you are one of the people considering attendance at a for-profit school, you can help protect yourself and other students by filling out the three-question survey.

[Virginia Myers]