Limiting access to proprietary colleges will hurt prospective students

Harry C. Alford
President/CEO of National Black Chamber of Commerce

In an opinion piece (“Don’t discriminate against proprietary colleges” 8/19), John R. McKernan, Jr., former U.S. Congressman and former Governor (R-Maine), makes a very important point about the Department of Education’s proposed regulation on career colleges: Limiting access to these schools will drastically hurt minority and low-income students. While President Obama is setting goals of increasing graduation rates, the department is creating massive hurdles for students to get there, especially at-risk students who need help the most.
Currently, black unemployment rates are well above the national number and are hovering around 15 percent. It’s a critical time to educate and train students to be prepared for a career upon graduating college.
Unfortunately, if programs at career colleges are shut down because of the proposed rule, we are going to close the door on opportunity and limit higher-education access for thousands of students. I agree with the former governor and hope the department will see the value in giving all students of all backgrounds a chance to succeed.
Larry Edward Penley, Ph.D.,
former president of Colorado State University and professor emeritus at Arizona State University

Critics of private sector education have been working overtime over the past few months. And despite some bad behavior from a few for-profit providers, there is a substantial misunderstanding of this part of the higher education industry and the real consequences of the Department of Education’s proposed actions.
The Department of Education’s proposed gainful employment rule endeavors to curb rampant student debt; actually it will limit educational opportunities for thousands of students across the country. In his opinion piece “Don’t discriminate against proprietary colleges”, Governor McKernan notes that the purpose of federal student aid is to provide access by helping disadvantaged students reach their potential. Unfortunately, the gainful employment rule will achieve just the opposite – limiting access.
Whereas private sector schools provide low-income and non-traditional students with educational access and opportunity, the gainful employment rule moves to strip that opportunity from some of the most vulnerable students.
The gainful employment rule has the potential to hurt the very students it was written to help, as Governor McKernan notes. Instead of helping, it undermines the true congressional intention of Title IV grants and loans. As a vehicle to enable opportunity in education, Title IV’s purpose is undermined as the gainful employment rule strips away access and becomes fundamentally altered if implemented as currently written.
Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution to combat student debt, the Department of Education and Congress should strive to hear from those most affected by the proposed rule. I fear that the most vulnerable student will be the real losers.
Chandler, Ariz.