A new year has started, and with it, the usual flurry of promises for change, predictions about what’s ahead, and ultimately, what our world might look like this time next year.

While we won’t pretend to have insightful predictions about many things, as an association of proprietary colleges, APC does have its pulse on the higher education sector, and an inkling of what the industry might face in 2015. As with all projections, we can never be entirely sure of anything – but, the one thing we know for certain is that the Department of Education will continue to face a battle in 2015 regarding its Gainful Employment rule, as we remain steadfast in our commitment to fight for a fair rule that can deliver upon its intended, stated goal – namely, to ensure that programs are providing students with a quality education that prepares them for gainful employment.

Indeed, as a look back at some of the most significant milestones will attest, it’s been quite the year for Gainful Employment. Once the draft of the rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in February and published a month later, it ushered in a public comment period to give interested parties “meaningful participation in the regulatory process.” In the ensuing months, those in favor of the rule and those against its bias toward proprietary colleges worked to ensure that material information was being considered by the department as it moved to finalize the rule.

We are proud to say that Marc Jerome, Vice President of APC-member college Monroe College, was one of the most ardent proponents for a fair rule that would deliver on its published objectives. We have always endorsed the need to shut down the proverbial bad actors who prey on students; we simply do not agree that the rule that the Department of Education devised is a fair one or is in students’ best interests. And we’re not alone in shedding light on the Department’s hypocrisy or the rule’s arbitrary, illogical nature. In fact, various editorials and remarks from congressional members further confirm that the rule didn’t just receive a backlash from those whom it would penalize, but from constituents within the broader higher education landscape (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Following publication of the Department’s GE regulation draft, APC and several of its member colleges, along with many others, sent the Department solid, comprehensive criticisms of the rule during the 60-day public commenting period (see links here). It was our hope that they would thoroughly review our fully developed analysis – backed by the most recent data and studies, including some of their very own – on the rule’s flaws and inconsistencies.

But, when the final rule was released at the end of October, it was largely unchanged, despite the rational, logical arguments made from many members, associations and organizations in higher education industry.

Sadly, we were left with no other option but to file a lawsuit against the Department of Education challenging the validity of the GE rule (a copy of the complaint can be found here). At APC, we are fiercely committed to advocating for our students, many of whom may not have a voice otherwise, or the opportunity to learn at a higher education institution. There are certainly a handful of colleges who may take advantage of these students through deceptive marketing tactics and unscrupulous programs. However, there are many others that produce positive outcomes, helping to transform the lives of their students. Indeed, a quick glance at some of our very own member colleges show just that (see here, here, here, here, here and here).

It is precisely for this reason that we will continue our fight in 2015 for a fair regulation that doesn’t ignore easily accessible third-party data or apply arbitrary metrics to its assessment, but rather takes a realistic, rational and transparent approach that is based more on logic than bias. More than a new year’s prediction, that’s a pledge to all the students and programs who will otherwise be adversely impacted by the rule.

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