Education Department’s Gainful Employment Rule Was Based on Falsehoods

Earlier, CEI issued a study on an Education Department rule that is likely to backfire on students: the so-called “gainful employment rule” that is being used to crack down on for-profit colleges. Now we learn that a General Accounting Office (GAO) report that was used to justify the rule was not “accurate,” as an internal GAO memo concedes. For example, the GAO repeatedly included erroneous claims that “15 out of 15 schools” investigated by the GAO engaged in various deceptive practices, when in fact far fewer of the 15 schools had been found to have done so.  “According to the GAO memo, ‘because a summary of X of 15 schools was requested, we then went back and stretched whatever we could find to come up with a number for the testimony.’”

Other inaccuracies in the GAO report resulted because “congressional staffers” hostile to for-profit schools “demanded the inclusion of numerous details as it was being finalized.” “The [GAO] team’s unwillingness to say no to the additional insertion of details at the end of a job created some of our most obvious inaccuracies.”

As the Daily Caller notes, “The report was crucial because it helped the push for strict new regulations at the Department of Education on the for-profit colleges. The most controversial part of the regulations, called gainful employment, is pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget.”

As Norton Norris notes, the GAO’s “error-riddled report” was “a completely inaccurate portrayal of the for-profit college industry”: “only 14 of the GAO’s original 65 findings could be supported based upon the available recordings. The other alleged 41 findings were not valid and served no meaningful purpose to be included in the GAO report.”

The Education Department recently issued another perverse rule that effectively required some private colleges to raise their tuition, by banning them from limiting their tuitions to the amount of financial aid that students receive.

It is also seeking to impose changes on campus disciplinary proceedings that would reduce accuracy and due process in sexual harassment cases.