Go to any major courthouse and there is a strong chance that a statue of Lady Justice stands out front. Blindfolded, she carries a sword in one hand and scales in the other. She is symbolic of all that we demand from our justice system — a fair and equal administration of the law, free of prejudice, favor, or corruption. Indeed, “Equal Justice under the Law” is carved into the very façade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to the GE Rule, however, it appears that it was the Department of Education that turned the blind eye — to what is right and fair.
Sadly, the Department’s Gainful Employment Rule is one of the most biased regulations to be handed down by the federal government in recent years. There is nothing “fair and equal” about this regulation, which clearly targets proprietary colleges by essentially creating loopholes that excuse the vast majority of community colleges, as well as non-profit and other public colleges, from its measurements.
As we’ve reiterated countless times, APC wholeheartedly endorses the Department’s goal of weeding out any bad actors that prey on students and veterans, saddling them with excessive student debt obligations and no meaningful career preparation. However, the scorched earth approach the Department has taken with this regulation clearly reveals its political bias against proprietary colleges. This bias is confirmed by its glib dismissal of the evidence that very good programs with solid outcomes for students who have few other realistic options are at risk of closure due to the unrealistic metrics that the Department has devised. That’s just one reason we are challenging the rule in court.
The grave issues of fairness and impartiality aside, it also doesn’t make sense for the Department to treat any poorly performing programs as sacred cows, not when the Department’s stated intent with the GE Rule was to ensure that students enrolled in certain higher education programs receive a quality education that adequately prepares them for gainful employment. ALL students deserve protection from programs that do otherwise.
However, instead of developing a rule consistent with this lofty goal, the Department developed a formula that has built-in exemptions for programs to avoid measurement. Approximately 60% of community college programs will be permanently exempted from the GE metrics simply because they do not graduate enough students for the Department to calculate rates. In New York, excellent programs at APC colleges with high graduation rates and low default rates will fail this rule, while programs at public colleges where the on-time graduation rates consistently have been as low as ONE percent for the last 10 years will get by based on their exemption.
We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: our students deserve better. The for-profit sector deserves better. Indeed, the students and our schools deserve fair and equal administration of the law from those charged with the task of providing it.