New 'gainful employment' rules will hurt students by reducing choices and limiting access

First, a word regarding higher education institutions: he who pays the piper calls the tune. It should come as no surprise then that the federal government student aid should come with strings attached. These are taxpayer dollars we are talking about. At the same time, Congress would be wise to reexamine whether the strings attached are fair and reasonable.

Here’s the rub: these new gainful employment regulations concentrate an arbitrary power over certain colleges and universities in the hands of an unelected few. That’s a problem.

If these “gainful employment” rules make sense—and I happen to think they don’t — then they should be applied to every last institution that is a recipient of federal student aid. Singling out a group of colleges for burdensome regulation because of a few bad actors amounts to giving a pass to the rest of the higher education world while punishing the group of for-profit schools. It’s been said that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If these regulations were allowed to stand or were proven to work, why not apply them to all higher education institutions?

However, I’m not convinced that these regulations will work or would make sense for any college or university, whether for-profit or not. They are overly bureaucratic and complex while failing to address the real issue: the quality of the programs they apply to.

And most members of Congress agree.

Earlier this year I cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to the House-passed CR with a bipartisan group of representatives to bar the Department of Education fromimplementing these “gainful employment” regulations. This amendment garnered broad bipartisan support in the House but unfortunately did not make it into the Senate-passed version of the CR.

The controversy over the “gainful employment” rules highlights an important reality — mainly that the federal government is actively creating rules that will prevent many people from obtaining skilled employment or improving their job status.

The whole issue of higher education regulation is a debate worth having. There is widespread opinion that the federal government has once again overstepped its bounds. That’s why I’m looking forward to taking a close look at how we can improve higher education without selectively imposing draconian regulations that hamper innovation and job creation while reducing student choices.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.