Public interest groups are defending a controversial rule that would penalize colleges and universities that do not prepare their students to find good-paying jobs after graduation.

The Department of Education issued so-called “gainful employment” regulations last October to ensure colleges do not unfairly bury students in debt to obtain inadequate degrees.

The Education Department would measure the quality of a private school education by monitoring graduation rates, how much money former students earn, and how much debt they leave with.

The schools would be required to prove their students make enough money to afford their student loan payments.

Private schools are challenging the rule in federal court, but 28 public interested groups told the court  the rule should be preserved.

“The rule is absolutely essential to curb some of the most egregious abuses of unethical for-profit schools,” said Julie Murray, an attorney at Public Citizen. “The groups that filed this brief are extremely concerned that some career colleges that target students of color, low-income students, veterans and others are exploiting those in the federal student aid program. The programs’ predatory actions must be stopped.”

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