Door Opens for Predatory Colleges

In Conflict of Interest, Education, The Upshot On

Despite strong evidence that the gainful employment rules are working as intended, Ms. DeVos has decided to tear them up and start from scratch, calling the regulations “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools.” Both Ms. DeVos and the president of the for-profit college industry association, Steve Gunderson, have said that students should be protected from “fraud.” Many of the failing programs aren’t fraudulent, in the strict, legal sense of the word. They’re just extraordinarily ineffective: a waste of taxpayer money and student time.

Bridgepoint Education, a publicly traded for-profit college corporation, offers an online associate degree in early education through Ashford University that costs almost $34,000 in tuition, fees and supplies, most of which students finance with debt. Fewer than half of students finish on time, and the median graduate earns less than $16,000 per year. If those results continue, the program will be cut off from aid under current rules.

Until this year, Robert S. Eitel was a top executive at Bridgepoint. He is now a senior counselor to Ms. DeVos, and has been officially designated as the education department’s regulatory reform officer, in charge of trimming rules under an executive order issued by President Trump.

It will take two years for the Department of Education to write and set into effect new gainful employment rules. A department spokesman declined to say whether the department would be enforcing the existing rules in the meantime. If it doesn’t, and if the new rules gut the existing regulations, Ms. DeVos will have destroyed a highly effective tool for protecting students from for-profit colleges that offer few job prospects and mountains of debt.

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