Education Secretary Duncan responds to eSchool News readers

'Why are programs that put an emphasis on parents' education being eliminated?' asked one reader.

Recently, we asked eSchool News readers, via our daily newsletter, ‘What’s one question you’d like to ask U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan?’—and Sec. Duncan answered.

After reading our newsletter, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) contacted eSchool News and asked us to choose five reader questions for Duncan to address. We chose these five questions based on relevancy, general interest, and diversity of topic. While every question we received was worthy of a response, Duncan unfortunately could not answer them all.

Here, you’ll find Duncan’s answers to the selected questions (in no particular order).…Read More

Are new ED rules an ‘unconditional surrender’ to for-profit colleges?

Duncan has helped shape for-profit regulations since 2009.

Some of the country’s largest online education programs will have to comply with federal regulations far less stringent than once thought after the U.S. Education Department (ED) unveiled its new rules for for-profit institutions that have come under fire for unscrupulous business practices.

The long-awaited rules aimed at for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University—first discussed in 2009—were released June 1.

The regulations are meant to ensure that students aren’t graduating from for-profit colleges unqualified for the professional world and burdened with excessive student loan debt.…Read More

Report shows education options expanding across U.S.

A decade of growth in education options has led to a significant shift in where U.S. students are going to school.

When it comes to education options—from kindergarten up through college—the decision is no longer simple for students and their parents, a new federal report suggests.

Children don’t just attend their neighborhood public school anymore. They often choose between that and the charter school across town, as the number of students enrolled in charter schools has more than tripled since 2000.

And after graduation, students increasingly are looking beyond traditional state and private schools for a higher education. For-profit colleges—offering flexible schedules but high costs and lower graduation rates—have enrolled one out of four new undergraduate students in the U.S. since 2000.…Read More

For-profit regulations, Pell Grants survive budget compromise

Experts expect lawmakers to keep Pell Grant funding at its current level.

Washington’s last-minute budget deal did not include a provision that would have killed a stringent for-profit college regulation, and Pell Grants remained intact despite deep cuts in education spending over the next six months.

The for-profit regulations pushed by the Obama administration for more than two years would impact some of the nation’s largest online colleges, such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, by stripping schools of federal loan money if too many of their students maintain high loan debt-to-income ratios, among other provisions.

Although the anti-regulation provision was pushed primarily by Congressional Republicans, a bipartisan letter was submitted April 4 that would have barred the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from implementing the new regulations on for-profit programs.…Read More

For-profit college group sues over regulations

A group representing for-profit colleges and trade schools filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the U.S. Department of Education seeking to block new regulations of the sector, the Associated Press reports. For-profit colleges, which rely heavily on students receiving federal aid, have been criticized for leaving too many students with large debt and questionable job prospects. The lawsuit from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges new rules issued in October that are scheduled to go into effect July 31. At issue are regulations that prohibit paying recruiters based on how many students they enroll, seek to rein in deceptive advertising and require states to authorize colleges for students to be eligible to receive federal loans…

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Online-instruction leader to make key changes

Critics charge that for-profit schools are accepting unqualified students.
Critics charge that for-profit schools are accepting unqualified students.

In a move that might trickle down to the rest of the for-profit education market, the University of Phoenix—the nation’s largest provider of online college classes—says it will offer new students a free, three-week trial program to see if they are ready for its curricula and for online instruction in an effort to weed out those at risk of leaving school before earning a degree.

The announcement comes as the federal government ramps up its regulation of for-profit colleges and universities, an industry that critics say preys on many students and leaves them with hefty debt loads and meager job prospects.

But Apollo Group Inc., the company that runs the University of Phoenix, says this change—and others the company will make as it seeks to comply with new federal guidelines—likely will result in fewer opportunities for lower-income students.…Read More

For-profit higher ed company opens national ad campaign

The national ad campaign by for-profit higher education provider Corinthian Colleges Inc. seeks to draw decision-makers and the broader public into a long-simmering debate over whether the federal government should tighten regulations on colleges that operate for profit, the Washington Post reports. The Obama administration has proposed 14 rules to overhaul the for-profit sector. The most contentious proposal requires programs to demonstrate that they yield “gainful employment” for their graduates and restricts or eliminates federal loan funds to programs that do not. The industry’s practices have been under particular scrutiny since the Government Accountability Office reported last month that recruiters at 15 for-profit colleges allegedly encouraged investigators posing as prospective students to commit fraud on financial aid applications or misled them about such matters as tuition costs and potential salaries after graduation…

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Fighting Obama education plans, colleges boost lobbying

Academia might be a bastion of liberal thought, but in the past two years, the higher-education industry often has lined up opposite the White House and congressional Democrats—and has spent a lot on lobbyists in the process, reports the Washington Post. The most recent example is the resistance from for-profit colleges to the Obama administration’s proposal to raise standards for institutions receiving federal student aid. But traditional colleges and universities also have opposed Democratic initiatives. First there was President Obama’s plan to cap the charitable tax deduction for the wealthy, bringing their tax break closer to everyone else’s. The measure would have raised $318 billion over 10 years, but it died quickly on Capitol Hill. Charities were the most visible opponents, but universities also worried that it would reduce giving by wealthy donors: the American Council on Education (ACE), higher education’s main trade group, lobbied on the issue in 2009, records show. The next conflict was over the Democratic proposal to eliminate subsidies for student loan providers. The overhaul would provide billions of dollars in Pell grants for low-income students and billions more for colleges to improve graduation rates. But schools were ambivalent about cracking down on private lenders, with whom they had built close relationships over the years. And they were opposed to the strings that would come with the additional institutional funding: requirements that they provide more data on student outcomes and submit to more state oversight…

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Education Department to boost anti-fraud efforts

The federal government will hire more investigators to prevent fraud by for-profit colleges in such areas as student financial aid, Reuters reports. In an Aug. 13 letter to the chairman of a Senate committee on education, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his department will hire more than 60 additional staff to strengthen oversight of for-profit schools and increase program reviews of post-secondary institutions by 50 percent each year. Duncan said his department would conduct undercover investigations of school recruiting practices and is working to improve its anti-fraud data analysis. The department also will hire a new Chief Customer Experience Officer to oversee consumer protection in its Federal Student Aid division and has asked for additional funding for oversight in its 2011 budget request. The letter followed a hearing by the Senate committee last week where the Government Accountability Office presented its findings from an undercover investigation of for-profit college recruiting activities. “The unethical and potentially illegal practices uncovered by GAO are unacceptable,” Duncan wrote in the letter.  The beefed-up enforcement measures are in addition to rules the department has proposed to provide prospective students more data about schools, including student loan repayment rates…

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Proposed federal rules crack down on for-profit schools

For-profit colleges are bringing in record amounts of federal aid money, according to government officials.
For-profit colleges are bringing in record amounts of federal aid money, according to government officials.

The Education Department proposed much-anticipated regulations July 23 that would cut off federal aid to for-profit college programs—including many of the nation’s largest online schools— if too many of their students default on loans or don’t earn enough after graduation to repay them.

“Some proprietary schools have profited and prospered but their students haven’t, and this is a disservice to students and to taxpayers,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a briefing with reporters. “And it undermines the valuable work, the extraordinarily important work, being done by the for-profit industry as a whole.”

To qualify for federal student aid programs, career college programs must prepare students for “gainful employment.”…Read More