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The U.S. Department of Education this week contacted people it has chosen to participate in a negotiated rule-making session on gainful employment, which begins in September.

The group of 15 negotiators and 14 alternates includes representatives from for-profit institutions as well as fierce critics of the sector. A federal negotiator, John Kolotos from the Education Department, is also a participant. (See box for the full list, which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed.)

Negotiators were selected to represent the various segments of higher education from which they hail. Both observers and negotiators said they anticipated an interesting few days of rule-making.

Gainful Employment Negotiators

This list has been updated from an earlier version, and now includes more names.

(Federal negotiator) John Kolotos, U.S. Department of Education

Eileen Connor, special litigation attorney, New York Legal Assistance Group

* Whitney Barkley, staff attorney, Mississippi Center for Justice

Ted Daywalt, president and CEO, VetJobs

* Thomas Kriger, research director, AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department

Helga Greenfield, associate vice president for college relations, Spelman College

* Ronnie Higgs, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, California State University at Monterey Bay

Richard Heath, financial aid director, Anne Arundel Community College

* Glen Gabert, president, Hudson Community College

Kevin Jensen, financial aid director, College of Western Idaho

* Rhonda Mohr, student financial aid specialist, California community college system chancellor's office

Marc Jerome, executive vice president, Monroe College

* Justin Berkowitz, vice president of operations, Daytona College

Brian W. Jones, general counsel, Strayer Education, Inc.

* Raymond Testa, vice president of government affairs and compliance, Empire Education Group

Della Justice, special assistant attorney general, Kentucky attorney general's office

* Libby DeBlasio, assistant attorney general, Colorado Department of Law

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities

* Barbara Hoblitzell, associate director of student financial aid support, University of California's Office of the President

Rory O'Sullivan, policy director for the Young Invincibles

* Kalwis Lo, legislative director, United States Students Association

Margaret Reiter, consumer attorney

* Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Jenny Rickard, vice president for enrollment, University of Puget Sound

* Thomas Dalton, assistant vice president for enrollment management, Excelsior College

Jack Warner, executive director and CEO, South Dakota Board of Regents

* Sandra Kinney, vice president of institutional research and planning for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System

Belle Wheelan, president, Commission on Schools, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

* Neil Harvison, chief academic and chair, Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors

* Alternates

A lengthy, bruising fight led to the crafting of a previous round of gainful employment regulations, which seek to set standards for measuring how recent graduates of vocational programs, mostly at for-profits, fare in the job market.

A federal judge last year struck down those rules, which would have imposed penalties on colleges if they slipped below standards for loan-repayment rates and debt-to-income ratios. For-profits and their advocates said the standards were arbitrary and unfair. Consumer advocates said they were too weak.

The Obama Administration's second-term Education Department decided to take another crack at drafting gainful employment regulations -- from scratch -- rather than continuing to fight the court’s ruling on the first version.

For-profits had pushed for that debate to occur as part of the renewal of the Higher Education Act, which is the law that governs federal financial aid. But the department decided to move ahead in September. And the feds opted to create a standalone session for gainful employment rather than folding it into a broader negotiated rule-making that might also include discussions of fraud protection or state authorization of distance education.

Both sides of the looming gainful-employment fracas said the department appears determined to push hard for gainful employment rules that will seek to crack down on for-profits. 

The group of negotiators is unlikely to reach a consensus on gainful employment, said Teddy Downey, a financial analyst who tracks the for-profit industry. As a result, he said the session is likely to be an "open forum" on the gainful-employment proposals the department might consider.

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