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Authors Allege DeVos of Distorting Gainful Employment Research

Two authors have criticized the Trump Administration’s move to rescind the Obama-era Gainful Employment (GE) regulations.

Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow at the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute, and Harry J. Holzer, LaFarge Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University who co-authored the Making College Work book published in 2017, have alleged the U.S. Department of Education of seriously distorting” their research about community colleges to justify its decision to revoke the regulations.

Last week, Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education would revoke the rules entirely, effective July 1, 2020. The plan to revoke the regulations was unveiled last year, claiming that the revocation would ensure transparency in higher education data to students and lead to equitable treatment of all higher education institutions.

Both of the authors penned a letter in The Chronicle of Higher Education, claiming that their research, which found that associate degrees in the liberal arts from community colleges hold little labor market value, was used by the Education Department to revoke the rules that required for-profit schools to prepare their students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”

“The Education Department uses this finding to argue that the gainful-employment rules — which actually apply to non-degree programs at all institutions, not just the for-profits — unfairly singled out the for-profit institutions,” they wrote. “The department rescinded these rules rather than applying them strongly and sensibly or improving them.”

In its justification for revoking the rules, the department stressed that institutions revealing information for all programs would help students gain a clearer understanding of the earnings of previous graduates, which will improve transparency as the data would be provided by the Secretary of Education. The move will hold institutions accountable if they are falsifying their program outcomes.

Critics believe that the department has left students open to further exploitation by predatory colleges.

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