Budget Bill Won't Block Rules on 'Gainful Employment'

April 11, 2011

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have rebuffed an effort by Congressional Republicans to use pending budget legislation to hamper the Education Department's ability to implement regulations requiring for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to ensure that their students are prepared for "gainful employment." Few details are available at this point about the compromise reached late Friday night between the White House and Congressional negotiators over a spending bill for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year; it is not entirely clear, for instance, how the legislation will affect federal student aid and research programs, although a post on the White House blog said the deal maintained the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. The post also says that the deal will force the White House to abandon its effort to "double the funding of key research and development agencies," but still permits "strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science."

But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirmed Sunday that the legislation would not contain a provision sought by a group of House members that would bar the Education Department from using any of its fiscal 2011 funds to carry out the controversial gainful employment rules, a new version of which the department is poised to release. The measure would have effectively delayed implementation of the regulations until October at the earliest. Opponents of the measure urged members Saturday to continue to push for the provision, but the Reid spokesman said it was dead.

The gainful employment provision was one of 66 "policy riders" that House Republicans sought to attach to the 2011 budget legislation, "and this was one they pushed for," the spokesman said. "But Sen. Reid and the White House firmly said no."

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