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Battle Lines Drawn on Regulatory Rewrite

July 11, 2017

Student advocates and representatives of higher education institutions laid out their positions Monday on the next round of regulatory rule making at the Department of Education. And those public comments -- the first step in the process to overhaul two major Obama-era regulations -- offered few surprises on the positions of the various parties.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month announced that she would pursue a rewrite of the gainful-employment and borrower-defense regulations. She also said she would suspend enforcement of the latter rule, citing ongoing legal challenges.

Since that announcement, DeVos has also said she will delay certain disclosure provisions of the gainful-employment rule, which holds career training programs responsible for poor debt-to-earnings ratios for graduates.

Student advocates called for the department to enforce the gainful-employment rule, which remains on the books.

"It is the department’s job to make sure taxpayers do not continue to subsidize failing programs," said Jennifer Wang, D.C. office director of the Institute for College Access and Success.

Advocates also called for the department to enforce a ban on mandatory arbitration agreements that is part of the borrower-defense rule.

Representatives of the for-profit sector called for the gainful-employment rule to be applied to all programs receiving Title IV aid regardless of sector, for reporting requirements to be streamlined and for ratings to reflect long-term earnings of graduates as well as geographic variation in income.

The United Negro College Fund and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities also called for a separate panel to separately consider financial responsibility provisions of the borrower-defense rule.

DeVos will appoint separate negotiated rule-making committees to take up each rule later this year, likely starting in November or December. The second public comment hearing ahead of the negotiated rule-making process is Wednesday in Dallas.


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