Kudos to Inside Higher Ed reporter Michael Stratford for shedding light on the hypocrisy and inconsistency inherent in the Department of Education’s regulation of higher education.

In its December release of a framework for a college ratings plan, intended to hold higher education institutions more accountable for student outcomes, the Department recently suggested an approach that assesses a college’s outcomes based on the demographics of the students it enrolls.

In its argument, the Department asserts that contextualizing a college’s graduation rate or its graduates’ earnings data based on “family income, parents’ education attainment, age, gender, marital status, veteran status and zip code” would “provide a more fair assessment of institutional performance to the public than one that relies solely on raw outcome data.”

This certainly makes sense to us – but is a complete 180 from what the Department has insisted while defending the metrics of its gainful employment rule, namely that there is no real relationship between students’ demographic, economic characteristics and program outcomes. As the article aptly notes:

“During debates on gainful employment, the administration, over the objections of for-profit colleges, said it wanted to hold all institutions to certain minimum standards – even if they enrolled large numbers of low-income students…”

Interestingly, while the Department ignores sound proof – including some of its very own – in its proposed regulation of the for-profit college sector, and the widespread impact it would have on institutions that serve the nation’s neediest students, it turns to the same data to create a methodology for rating all colleges across all sectors. Surely this is more than just an oversight – indeed, it is just one more example of the Department’s inherent bias against proprietary colleges, and its tendency to pick and choose whichever data supports its predetermined goal.

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