Reforming Higher Ed Regulations Benefits Everyone

Cherylyn Harley LeBon | Columnist

One of the most underreported stories today is the aggressive attack on private college education and efforts to limit education choice for students and their families.

The administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are diligently working to reverse or end regulations that were specifically imposed to put many private colleges and universities out of business. Secretary DeVos is dismantling many of these harmful rules with the goal of giving women, minorities, veterans, and non-traditional students an opportunity for a college education and meaningful employment.

Regulations implemented under President Obama and advocated by education elitists increased education costs and decreased options for career-focused higher education. The “Gainful Employment” rule tops the list of bad regulations that should end.

Gainful Employment arbitrarily defines how much debt a student can incur based on a chosen degree. If a student graduates with a degree in culinary arts or cosmetology — fields that don’t usually offer high starting salaries — the government can pursue legal action against the college after three years. Moreover, the graduate must earn what the government defines as a “sufficient salary.”

The government can also force the school to eliminate that degree program. It’s slightly impractical to allow government bureaucrats the authority to decide how much people in the private sector should earn.

The myopic Gainful Employment rule fails to consider the varying cost of living expenses and average salaries in different regions of the county. A sous chef working in New York City or Los Angeles can expect to make a more lucrative salary than a chef living in a rural area. The same would apply to a manicurist or a nurse. Inflexible government regulations ignore the realities of living expenses and salaries for specific occupations in large cities vs. small towns.

Another troubling regulation concerns “State Authorization” which forces colleges offering online courses to obtain an operating license in every state where their students reside. Distance learning is an affordable, practical, and popular vehicle through which many students and professionals obtain career-oriented, undergraduate, and graduate degrees.

Businesses engaged in e-commerce nationwide are not forced to comply with unrealistic licensing demands. Most states don’t have the ability or resources to monitor such licensees. Clearly, this regulation was designed to attack a private college’s ability to offer online courses with the goal of shutting them down.

Active-duty military members and veterans who rely on the flexibility of online courses and stay at home parents who want a career-focused degree are particularly impacted by this regulation. Online education accommodates people’s work schedules or family needs and represent the future of higher education.

There is no reason to force private colleges and universities to comply with such rules unless the goal is to force them out of business. This appears to be the intent of the education elites in this country.

The trial lawyers are especially interested in another regulation called the “Borrower Defense to Repayment” rule. This rule allows college students to demand a tuition refund or walk away from their student loans if they believe they have been misled or defrauded by their institution’s advertising.

The floodgates of potential lawsuits were already beginning to open when the Education Department stalled the implementation of this rule. Trial lawyers were preparing to sue colleges on behalf of students who wanted to immediately absolve their school loan debt and hand the bill to taxpayers.

All college-bound students have the right to choose a school that fits their needs and earn a degree that will lead to a good paying job. In turn, employers are looking for specific skill-sets to fit their hiring demands. Students should have the option to choose a college school they want so they can acquire the knowledge and skills needed for that rewarding career be it a public, private, non-profit or for-profit school.

Our educational policies should be geared towards advocating for students’ best interests by working to reform or negate many of these harmful regulations. We should focus on opportunity, responsibility, free-market competition, common sense, and an abundance of choice in our education system.

In an economy where small businesses and employers have more than six million jobs currently available, expanding — not limiting — educational choice and opportunity should be our goal. Reforming needless regulations is an important first step.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is an attorney, commentator, and strategist.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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