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Education Department releases gainful employment data for vocational programs

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Graduates who earned certificates at public institutions have larger salaries, but there is wide variation between programs even at the same institutions.

Gingrich Backs For-Profit Group's Campaign

Newt Gingrich and U.S. Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, are slated to join Career Education Colleges and Universities at an event Friday. The group, which is the primary trade organization for the for-profit sector, is announcing a new campaign to close the skills gap with five million trained professionals. Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a prominent adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, in August appeared in a web video with Steve Gunderson, the for-profit group's president and CEO.

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Panel Says Deregulation of For-Profits Is Likely

Leading critics and supporters of the for-profit college industry gathered on a panel at the Cato Institute Wednesday to discuss the sector's future of under President-elect Donald Trump. The six panelists agreed on one point: nobody really knows what to expect, given Trump’s unpredictability.

It’s certainly a possibility that Trump will be inclined to roll back regulations that have been imposed on the beleaguered industry, said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and Eric Juhlin, CEO at the Center for Excellence in Higher Education. However, they agreed that a total deregulation of the industry was unlikely. It’s also possible that the U.S. Congress will make many of the significant policy decisions concerning the for-profit industry, agreed Nassirian and Ben Miller, senior director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.

The panelists could not say with certainty who Trump’s pick for education secretary will be, although it’s likely that the position will go to someone with more K-12 policy experience than higher education experience, said Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute.

The panelists were less willing to agree on the Obama’s administration legacy with the for-profit industry. The Education Department under Obama will be known for its disproportionate focus on regulating for-profits, said McCluskey. But Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who previously played a prominent role in the department's crackdown on the industry, thought differently: history will show that the for-profit industry shot itself in the foot, he said.

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North Dakota Eliminates State Authorization Office

The North Dakota University System has eliminated the office that authorizes colleges to issue degrees in the state, either on-site or via distance education. A spokeswoman for the system confirmed the move via email, saying there had been a reduction in force due to budgetary constraints. She said the duties would be reassigned.

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Education Dept. Backs Defunct For-Profit in Fight With Accreditor

U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. last week affirmed an administrative judge's March ruling that relieved now-defunct Decker College of a $31.6 million repayment the Education Department demanded the for-profit institution make in 2005. The administrative judge had ruled that the department based its finding at that time on misinformation provided by Decker's accreditor, the Council on Occupational Education, which Decker officials have argued helped push the college into bankruptcy and ultimately destroy it. The Federal Student Aid office -- part of King's own department -- appealed the administrative judge's ruling to the secretary.

King's affirmation letter was unusually frank and expansive in explaining why he rejected his own agency's appeal. The department's decision is also likely to clear the way for a lawsuit -- which has been stayed pending resolution of this situation -- in which Decker is suing the accrediting council over its misrepresentations. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to correct some errors.)

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Judge Halts ITT Tech Lawsuits

A bankruptcy judge on Wednesday temporarily barred regulators from continuing lawsuits against the defunct ITT Educational Services, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the state of New Mexico each have launched litigation against the for-profit parent company of ITT Technical Institutes for allegedly defrauding students and investors in connection with a private loan program. Massachusetts is also suing ITT for allegedly misleading students with false job-placement statistics.

ITT Tech closed its campuses in September after being sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education. On Wednesday, the judge said regulators would have to wait to move forward with litigation until after the bankruptcy proceedings or at least until Dec. 21.

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10-Campus For-Profit Chain Shuts Down

Heritage College, a for-profit with 10 campuses around the country, is shutting down, apparently immediately, according to press reports in some areas where Heritage has operated. No information is available on why the colleges are being shut down. Heritage operates in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma.

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CFPB Filing in Accreditation Lawsuit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has asked an appeals court to throw out a lower court's ruling that the federal agency lacks the authority to investigate accreditors' oversight of for-profit colleges, Politico reported. The bureau said in an opening brief that it has "ample authority" to pursue accreditors that could be violating federal consumer protection laws. CFPB's lawsuit is against the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, a controversial national accreditor that is facing an existential threat over its approval of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes.

For-Profits Gave $100,000 to Senator Roy Blunt

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, has received $100,000 in campaign donations from for-profit colleges and the industry's lobbyists, according to a report from The Kansas City Star. Blunt is chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that regulates funding for federal financial aid, and he is known as an ally of the for-profit industry.

Blunt has received $28,800 from for-profit institutions and their political action committees and at least $73,550 from lobbyists hired by for-profits. He is one of many Republicans who has received campaign contributions from the industry.

The senator's campaign has cashed $14,000 from Thompson Coburn, a lobbying firm that worked with ITT Technical Institutes -- the for-profit chain that collapsed in September. ITT Tech was the subject of several federal lawsuits and legal investigations. Blunt also received money from Bridgepoint Education, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently fined $23.5 million for deceiving students about payments.

Blunt, who has been a senator since 2011, is facing one of the year's most heated Senate races. Although many pundits considered him a shoo-in for re-election, his Democratic challenger, Jason Kander, is neck and neck with him in polls.

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Wikileaks, Bill Clinton and For-Profits

A former adviser to Bill Clinton co-founded a corporate consulting firm that did communications work for Education Management Corporation, a for-profit college chain, as well as a company that does student-loan default-prevention.

The inner workings of the company, Teneo Holdings, were revealed in an illegally hacked memorandum that was released last week by Wikileaks, the antisecrecy group that federal authorities say has received documents from hackers working for the Russian government in an attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Former Clinton adviser Doug Band co-founded Teneo. In the memo Band said he helped encourage Teneo's clients to donate to the Clinton Foundation. Band also described how he helped facilitate Bill Clinton's previously reported lucrative personal business relationship with Laureate Education, a for-profit college chain.

A Teneo subsidiary, Teneo Strategies, in recent years did public relations work for EDMC, including its Art Institutes chain. Another EDMC subsidiary, the defunct Brown Mackie College, donated up to $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to The Washington Post.

Teneo Strategies also performed communications work for Ceannate Corp., a company that colleges pay to help prevent former students from defaulting on their federal student loans. Ceannate does not appear to have donated to the Clinton Foundation.

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