• October 26, 2014

Negotiators Are Named for Gainful-Employment Rule-Making Panel

The U.S. Education Department has named negotiators to a panel that will rewrite its controversial "gainful employment" rule, and for-profit colleges are feeling outnumbered.

The list of 15 negotiators and 14 alternates comprises a diverse group of students, legal-aid lawyers and consumer advocates, state officials, business leaders, accreditors, college lobbyists and administrators, and an Education Department official. Two of the negotiators, along with two alternates, are from the for-profit sector, with one each representing publicly traded and nontraded institutions.

But the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the main lobbying group for for-profit colleges, says the panel doesn't reflect the diversity of the sector, and complains that no nationally accredited colleges or their accreditors are included.

"Repeating the biased and tainted process of the past, the committee has multiple representatives who are on the record or work for entities that are blatant, vocal opponents of the existence of our institutions," said Steve Gunderson, the association's president. "If the past is any indication of what may follow, a committee with this makeup will create regulations that stifle education innovation, cost jobs, and displace the students who benefit most from career and job-focused training."

The original gainful-employment rule, which a federal judge struck down last summer, would have cut off federal student aid to career-oriented higher-education programs whose graduates had high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates. Negotiations over a revised rule begin this fall, with the first session starting here on September 9.

For-profit colleges have urged the department to drop the rule, or at least to postpone further debate on it until Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act, the main law governing federal student aid. Last week Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would bar the department from acting before Congress does.

But supporters of the rule, including student and consumer groups, want the department to tweak the rule just enough to satisfy the judge's concerns, and maybe even tighten it.

Asked about the composition of the panel, one negotiator, Barmak Nassirian, a lobbyist for state colleges, said that the department had "attempted to be fair without turning the negotiating committee into a Noah's ark by placing on it one pair of every species of conceivable stakeholders."

"The various interest groups always whine about being underrepresented, presumably because they think having more votes would give them more influence," said Mr. Nassirian, a vocal critic of for-profit colleges. But "given that every negotiator can torpedo consensus proposals, I'm not sure that having multiple votes for essentially the same interests would make a substantive difference in the outcome."

The negotiators, and their alternates, are as follows:

  • John Kolotos, U.S. Department of Education
  • Rory O'Sullivan, policy and research director, Young Invincibles
  • (alternate) Kalwis Lo, legislative director, United States Student Association
  • Eileen Connor, senior staff attorney, special litigation unit, New York Legal Assistance Group
  • (alternate) Whitney Barkley, staff attorney, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Margaret Reiter, former deputy attorney general of California
  • (alternate) Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Kevin Jensen, financial-aid director, College of Western Idaho
  • (alternate) Rhonda Mohr, student financial-aid specialist, California Community Colleges chancellor's office
  • Jack Warner, executive director and chief executive, South Dakota Board of Regents
  • (alternate) Sandra Kinney, vice president for institutional research and planning, Louisiana Community and Technical College system
  • Della Justice, special assistant attorney general, Kentucky
  • (alternate) Libby DeBlasio, assistant attorney general, Colorado Department of Law, consumer-protection section, consumer-fraud unit
  • Ted Daywalt, chief executive and president, VetJobs
  • (alternate) Thomas Kriger, research director, building- and construction-trades department, AFL-CIO, and director, Standing Committee on Apprenticeship and Training
  • Helga Greenfield, associate vice president for college relations and director of Title III government relations, Spelman College
  • (alternate) Ronnie Higgs, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, California State University-Monterey Bay
  • Richard Heath, financial-aid director, Anne Arundel Community College
  • (alternate) Glen Gabert, president, Hudson County Community College
  • Barmak Nassirian, director of federal-policy analysis, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • (alternate) Barbara Hoblitzell, associate director of student financial support, University of California Office of the President
  • Jenny Rickard, vice president for enrollment, University of Puget Sound
  • (alternate) Thomas Dalton, assistant vice president for enrollment management, Excelsior College
  • Brian Jones, general counsel, Strayer University
  • (alternate) Raymond Testa, vice president for government affairs and compliance, Empire Education Group
  • Marc Jerome, board member, Association of Proprietary Colleges in New York, and executive vice president, Monroe College
  • (alternate) Justin Berkowitz, vice president for operations, Daytona College
  • Belle Wheelan, president, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges
  • (alternate) Neil Harvison, chief academic and chair, Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors, and scientific-affairs officer, American Occupational Therapy Association
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