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Statement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) on New Education Department “Gainful Employment” Regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations on the definition of “gainful employment.”  “Preparing students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation” is used in the Higher Education Act as one of the eligibility requirements that most for-profit programs, and many less than two year non-profit programs, must meet to receive federal student aid.  It is expected that the proposal will receive public comment for 45 days, be finalized by November and go into effect July 1, 2011.

Last month, Chairman Harkin released a report and conducted the Committee’s first oversight hearing on the for-profit education sector.  The second hearing in this series is set for August 4th.

“I applaud Secretary Duncan for moving forward with these new safeguards for students and taxpayers.  This regulation is plain common sense.  If a school can’t show that its students are repaying their college debt and not defaulting, this is a sure sign that the school is failing to prepare its students for gainful employment, as the law requires.  
“The HELP Committee is in the early stage of its investigation into the for-profit education sector, but we already have ample evidence that some of these schools are raking in big profits without ensuring that students get the knowledge and skills to justify the substantial federal investment in student grants and loans.  I will be looking closely at this rule to ensure that it goes far enough to protect the $23 billion in federal aid to for-profit schools each year.  At first glance, the regulation appears to set a low bar.  If we are allowing a school to continue to walk away with taxpayer dollars, despite the fact that less than a third of its students are able to repay their loans, that would seem to be a case of shockingly low expectations.”