It goes without saying that the Department of Education’s Gainful Employment rule is being fiercely debated by various constituencies and organizations across the higher education sector. The latest example of this comes from a report released yesterday by the national nonprofit group, Young Invincibles, challenging the findings of a separate report by The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm we commissioned to do a detailed analysis of the Department of Education’s Gainful Employment rule.

Both reports claim a faulty and flawed analysis. However, whereas The Parthenon Group challenges the architect of the rule directly – namely, the Department of Education – the Young Invincibles, a group formed with the active support of the Obama Administration to promote Obamacare among the youth, challenges the challenger, thereby offering a tit-for-tat criticism that holds little weight when thoroughly examined.

Indeed, the crux of the dispute comes down to the data used for calculating program performance under the GE rule. What the Young Invincibles report fails to highlight is that the Department of Education has consistently concluded that student characteristics – such as degree level, enrollment status and average aid given – are key determinants in measuring student outcomes. However, when challenged on the notion that the GE rule penalizes institutions that serve disadvantaged students – as stated in the Parthenon report – the Department argues that there is no real relationship between students’ demographic and economic characteristics, and the success or failure under the GE metrics of the programs in which those students are enrolled.

The fact remains the Department has all the data to run a thorough analysis, but has instead chosen to use only a fraction of that data and analyze it without the rigor you would expect in this process to support a seemingly predetermined conclusion. Accordingly, The Young Invincibles are wrong to assert that The Parthenon Group “not surprisingly, does its best to excuse schools from responsibility for poor outcomes.” For it is not trying to free institutions from accountability, but rather is questioning why the Department has contradicted its own findings that student characteristics do matter when it comes to program performance.

For further information on The Parthenon Group’s report, please see our previous blog post here.

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