For-Profit College Trade Group Sues Over New Guidelines

Just days after the Education Department presented a new “gainful employment” rule targeted at for-profit colleges, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities filed a lawsuit claiming that the rules violate federal law.

A leading trade group for higher-education institutions in the for-profit sphere claims that new federal rules aimed at its members go too far.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), which represents around 1,400 colleges and universities nationwide, filed a lawsuit [PDF] last week against the Education Department, arguing that the regulation, which ties federal financial aid to student success, “is unlawful, arbitrary, and irrational, and will needlessly harm millions of students who attend private-sector colleges and universities.”

The association is concerned that the debt-to-earnings ratio that the new rule relies on is overly demanding and that if such standards were applied to public schools or nonprofit universities, more than a quarter of such schools would fail.

“This regulation, and the impact it will have on student access and opportunity, is so unacceptable and in violation of federal law that we were left with no choice but to file suit,” APSCU President and CEO Steve Gunderson said in a news release. “If successful, our suit will protect student access and opportunity to higher education at a time when the U.S. Department of Education seems interested in limiting choices for students by closing private-sector programs.”

For its part, the Education Department believes that the policy is legally sound.

“We’re confident that the department is within its legal authority in issuing gainful employment regulations that will protect students and taxpayers’ investments by bringing more accountability and transparency to career training programs,” Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt said in a statement to NPR.

However, NPR notes that the regulation could face trouble with the new Republican-leaning Congress, something that APSCU’s Gunderson suggested would be likely.

“While we seek relief from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, we are hopeful that the Congress will stop the Department’s regulation and consider the best interests of all students when they reauthorize the Higher Education Act and develop policies that apply to all students, in all programs, at all institutions,” he said in a statement.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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