Biden administration set to cancel DeVos education program | Education News

While their call for President Joe Biden to write off student loan debt remains the central education priority for progressive Democrats, the White House has quietly tackled key federal regulations that govern how the education industry operates. higher education — an effort that will put the administration’s stamp on the college accountability agenda that Biden campaigned on.

A panel is due to meet on Tuesday for a new set of negotiated rules, where members will debate and draft regulations on how the Department of Education oversees colleges and universities – especially for-profit schools – and their ability to tap into federal funding.

The cumbersome process, which will take months to finalize, underscores the Biden administration’s intention to undo former education secretary Betsy DeVos’ greatest achievement, which established regulations aimed at elevating the sector to profit while setting up roadblocks that impeded borrower access. upon loan forgiveness.

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Notably, the negotiated rulemaking session will take place amid falling enrollment across all sectors of the higher education industry and renewed recognition by Democrats that students need options other than four-year degrees – and especially options that provide degrees, certificates, and diplomas that match the needs of the local workforce, which for-profit industry has long sought to provide.

According to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, total undergraduate enrollment has fallen 6.6%, or 1,025,600 students, since fall 2019, with public four-year institutions losing the greatest number of students.

The shift in focus to vocational and technical learning was front and center on Friday, when Education Secretary Miguel Cardona traveled to Groton, Connecticut, alongside members of Congress to visit a technical high school that offers manufacturing-focused programs and spoke with students and education officials. on their pipelines into the workforce.

“Visits like this, where we get superintendents working with our state department of education to connect with workforce partners and really create programs in our schools,” said Cardona, “in our comprehensive high schools as well, not just in technical schools, to give students choices when they graduate.

Cardona himself graduated from one of 17 technical high schools in the state, where he was part of an automotive studies program.

The trip was intended to highlight the included $20 billion for workforce development programs included in the president’s Build Back Better package, which Congress was poised to pass last month, but which is now dormant as the Senate attempts to send suffrage legislation to the President’s office. from next week.

With the pandemic having dramatically changed the landscape of higher education and workforce needs, the for-profit industry hopes negotiators and the Biden administration will consider what their schools offer students who want something else. thing than a four-year degree.

“This negotiated regulation is a critical opportunity for the Biden administration to craft common sense regulations that protect all students and safeguard taxpayer funds,” said Jason Altmire, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, who represents the industry. “With more data available than ever in higher education, the negotiating committee – which includes the Department of Education – has a moral obligation to develop policies that hold public, private, not-for-profit institutions for-profit and for-profit equally accountable for their results.”

“Using an institution’s tax status is an inadequate indicator of quality and turns a blind eye to what is happening at those institutions that enroll 92% of all students enrolled in post-secondary education,” he says.

But that might be a tough sell. Although the landscape fluctuates, the issues involving for-profit schools and loan servicers remain raw.

Earlier this week, Navient, once one of the largest student loan servicing companies in the United States, reached a settlement with 39 states that will send $1.85 billion to more than 400,000 student borrowers who claim that the company made predatory loans that put them in debt. it was unlikely that they would ever repay. The majority of borrowers used the loans to attend for-profit schools.

“Navient repeatedly and deliberately put profits ahead of its borrowers – it engaged in deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students it knew would have difficulty repaying their loans, and imposed a burden unfair to people trying to improve their lives through education,” said Josh Shapiro. , the Pennsylvania attorney general, who announced the settlement.

These are the same concerns that many higher education policy pundits and student advocacy groups still have about the for-profit industry and they see the rulemaking sessions as the opportunity for the Biden administration. to establish strong safeguards over their operations – particularly regarding how borrowers access and repay the federal government. student loans, how the government can fairly repay them, and what kind of regulations need to be in place to fight bad actors.

The White House has been quietly working on these issues for some time now.

In December, a group of experts reached consensus on four of the twelve student loan proposals, including making it easier for severely disabled borrowers to cancel their loans, streamlining loan cancellation for borrowers whose schools falsely certifying their eligibility for loans and eliminating interest capitalization on federal loans in some cases.

The most contentious issues have not been resolved, as widely expected, and Ministry of Education officials are currently developing their own proposals to resolve them. Among the outstanding issues: establishing how the Department of Education adjudicates loan cancellation requests from borrowers who have been defrauded by their schools, establishing the criteria that entitle borrowers to loan cancellation if their school suddenly closes, reinstating the ban on binding arbitration agreements, structuring the Biden administration a new income-based repayment plan, and expanding the civil service loan forgiveness program.

Starting Tuesday, a panel will address the next set of issues, including reinstating an Obama-era version of the paid-employment rule, which sought to hold schools — especially for-profits — accountable for student outcomes by requiring them to prove that their graduate income relative to their debts will allow them to repay their student loans. The policy was scrapped by the Trump administration, which claimed it unfairly targets for-profit corporations, and is now resurfacing at a time when the value of some degrees from prestigious private and public colleges and universities is growing. more monitored.

A recent Wall Street Journal survey found that master’s students at the nation’s most elite schools were taking on more debt than their salaries could support. At New York University, for example, graduates of the master’s in publishing program borrowed an average of $116,000 and had a median annual income of $42,000 two years after the program.

The panel will also discuss the so-called “90/10 rule,” which sets limits on how much revenue for-profit colleges can get from the federal government. Currently, they cannot get more than 90% of their income from federal student aid programs. However, federal education benefits for veterans and active duty members – such as GI Bill education benefits and Department of Defense tuition assistance funds – do not count towards the 90% , a loophole that has led some for-profit companies to massively recruit veterans. The American Rescue Plan Act, the most recent coronavirus relief package, included language that directs the Biden administration to rewrite the rule.

Other issues the panel is set to examine include the approval process for for-profit colleges wishing to transition to nonprofit status and the financial standards that all colleges and universities must meet. to receive federal student aid.

Negotiations are expected to continue in the coming months, with the Ministry of Education already announcing two additional meetings in February and March.

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