Obama Administration Goes After For-Profit Colleges Again

PHOTO: US President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting at Binghamton University, on August 23, 2013 in Binghamton, New York. Obama is on a two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania to discuss his plan to make college more affordable.

The Obama administration is pushing for new regulations on for-profit colleges, which have been criticized for accepting federal student loan money and then failing to graduate people.

The Department of Education would like to cut funding for programs at for-profits and vocational programs where graduates have debt that make up more than 30 percent of their discretionary income and 12 percent of their annual income for two of three years.

This isn’t a new battle and it’s also not likely to be easily won.

The administration developed regulations during President Obama’s first term in office, but eventually, a federal judge threw out a rule that said schools where less than 35 percent of graduates were repaying their loans would lose federal financial aid.

And for-profit colleges have come out swinging. They say they’re being unfairly targeted and that they’ve self-corrected bad policies over the years.

But the Education Department also has access to better information about for-profit college graduates’ debt and job opportunities.

As Politico reported, the negotiations begin Monday and should last through October.

The debate comes as the White House pushes what it is calling a plan to make college more affordable. The president has proposed a ratings system that would rate schools based on things like affordability, graduation rates, and whether they’re accessible to low-income students. He’d like to tie how much federal funding schools get to their rating.

The administration is also pushing to make higher education more accessible by expanding online classes and allowing people to get course credit for skills learned in the workforce or military, which could help veterans pursue degrees.

Obama has proposed changes to the federal financial aid system, too. He’d like to cap student loan repayment plans based on how much graduates earn.

While the administration can move ahead with things like the ratings system, it will take Congressional action to tie financial aid to the ratings and there’s bound to be well-funded and organized opposition to new for-profit college regulations.

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