For-Profit Groups Sue to Block Gainful Employment Rules

November 7, 2014

The for-profit sector's primary trade group on Thursday filed suit in federal court to block gainful employment regulations, which the U.S. Department of Education unveiled last week. A federal judge in 2012 halted a previous attempt by the Obama administration to enact rules for vocational programs at for-profits, community colleges and other institutions. The judge said the department failed to establish its reasoning behind one of the metrics. However, the judge also ruled that the department was within its rights with the overarching thrust of the regulations.

The new lawsuit from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) alleges that gainful employment "repeats and exacerbates" problems that led to its previous version being held up in court, calling the rules arbitrary. In a written statement, the department said it is confident that it is "within its legal authority in issuing gainful employment regulations that will protect students and taxpayers’ investments by bringing more accountability and transparency to career training programs."

Separately, a trade association representing for-profit colleges in New York filed its own federal lawsuit Thursday over the gainful employment regulations. That complaint by the Association of Proprietary Colleges echoes some of the arguments in the APSCU lawsuit: that the rule sets arbitrary standards and goes beyond the bounds of federal law. 

But the New York lawsuit also raises issues about the rule that have not yet been litigated. For example, the group argues that the Obama administration's regulation conflicts with the standards for for-profit colleges set by New York state regulators. In addition, the group claims the rule violates its due process rights because its members could be stripped of federal aid on the basis of graduate earnings data that it would not be allowed to challenge. The group says that there are serious flaws in how the Education Department plans to obtain graduate earnings data from Social Security Administration. 

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