House Dems push for 'gainful employment' rule on colleges

House Democrats are pushing for the Obama administration to finalize rules blocking federal money to colleges where students don't graduate with the chance to land a good job.

Outlining what type of “gainful employment” graduates will need to have in order for their alma maters to get federal funds would hold schools accountable for the education they offer, 31 Democrats wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday.

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“More than ever, we need a rule that ends federal financial aid for programs that consistently leave students – our veterans, working parents, and other Americans struggling to build new lives – without decent incomes and with insurmountable debt,” they wrote. “Federal aid should only go to career education programs that effectively train students and help them build careers.”

The regulations would define the term “gainful employment" as it was used in the 1965 Higher Education Act. According to the law, only education programs that “lead to gainful employment in a recognized occupation” are eligible for federal money.

Critics of some for-profit schools say the new rules are necessary to make sure that colleges aren’t saddling their students with debt without properly educating them.

"We need these rules to ensure students get what they bargained for — an education that will help them find a good job in the field they study," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who signed the letter, said in a statement. "If these institutions are truly committed to educating students from underserved communities, they need to be equally committed to demonstrating positive outcomes for those students.“

Opponents of the rules say they would disproportionately hurt specialty training programs and block federal aid to students who need it most.

On Friday, the Education Department held a session in Washington to negotiate the potential rules.

Congress has repeatedly passed measures to block the department from issuing the regulations. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) introduced another bill to limit the effort this summer.