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Rep. Foxx Calls for Streamlining Regulations and Cutting Spending

Critic of Obama Policies Will Lead Higher-Education Panel in U.S. House 1

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Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina (shown in 2008), says if higher education "can't prove the worth of a program, then it needs to examine itself."

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close Critic of Obama Policies Will Lead Higher-Education Panel in U.S. House 1

Brendan Hoffman, Getty Images

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina (shown in 2008), says if higher education "can't prove the worth of a program, then it needs to examine itself."

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, said on Tuesday that one of her priorities for higher education in the new session of Congress would be to question the amount and scope of regulation that the U.S. Education Department applies to colleges, in particular the proposed "gainful employment" rule that could have a major impact on the nation's for-profit institutions.

She also repeated earlier comments that the Pell Grant program, which provides college scholarships for low-income students, would not be exempt from Republican proposals to slash the federal budget.

Representative Foxx, the newly named chairwoman of the higher-education subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, made her remarks at the annual conference of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, an association that represents some 3,000 postsecondary institutions and sets standards for 60 accrediting organizations that seek to be recognized by the council, including the major regional and national accreditors.

The gainful-employment rule has become a target of Republicans in Congress, who have largely been more sympathetic than Democrats to the concerns of the for-profit colleges. The rule, which has yet to be issued in final form, would cut off federal student aid to programs whose graduates carry high student-loan debt relative to their income and have low loan-repayment rates.

Representative Foxx said that although higher-education institutions should expect federal money to come with demands for accountability, it was not clear to her that the proposed rule made sense. And if it did make sense, she said, it should clearly apply to both for-profit and traditional nonprofit colleges.

While Representative Foxx said she would like her subcommittee to discuss a host of education regulations that could be passed down to the state governments, she said she would not be "rushing to legislate," but instead would focus on oversight with regular hearings.

'Not Prejudging the Issue'

Eduardo Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Education Department, spoke to the conference after Representative Foxx had finished. He said he did not take her comments as a threat to try to scuttle the regulations.

"What I heard from Congresswoman Foxx, I'm going to take at face value, and I thought it was measured," he said. "She said the rules may be unfair. She is not prejudging the issue ... and so there is an interesting conversation there," he said.

Mr. Ochoa also said that the department's next draft of the rule may quell concerns of the proprietary colleges, though he gave no specifics on what those changes were or when they would be released.

"The regulations as they come out are going to be significantly different—I think they're going to be better, nuanced, and I think that there's a lot there that people will appreciate having other views reflected."

Gregory O'Brien, president emeritus of the for-profit Argosy University, said that having the Republicans in control of one chamber of Congress would be a welcome balance to the regulatory ambitions of Democrats in Congress and the Education Department: "I think there may be some slowing of a train."


1. studentperspective - January 25, 2011 at 07:51 pm

"The gainful-employment rule has become a target of Republicans in Congress, who have largely been more sympathetic than Democrats to the concerns of the for-profit colleges."

Isn't the government supposed to be looking out for the concerns of ALL of the citizens who elected them? As chairwomn of the higher education sub-committe I sincerely hope that she puts the 'concerns' of students first and foremost!

2. panacea - January 25, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Good luck with that. Foxx is a nut, plain and simple, and her constituency so conservative they don't know the War between the States is over . . . and that the South lost.

(NB I live in her neck of the woods, so I know more about her than I'd like. Take that as you will).

3. mikpap - January 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Protection of students is great; it should be applied FAIRLY across all sectors of higher education. Current actions represent a politically motivated attack on for profit education. In the end, the sins of for profit education are the sins of all higher education.

4. bearjimmy - January 26, 2011 at 07:56 am

Panacea is right on target, in that Rep. Foxx is, indeed, a nut, and sadly more. First, she did not come from the people she reportedly represents, i.e., the northeastern corner of my birth state North Carolina. She is a native of none other than New York City. Second, in addition to being a carpet bagger who thinks she is better than the locals she reportedly represents, the majority of her constituents are Southern Baptist, whereas Rep. Foxx is a Roman Catholic. And as such, the locals support her views on gays, and abortion, but haven't the first clue that Foxx takes orders from the Vatican. (see: John Foster West, "Appalachian Dawn"). Third, the last name "Fox" is a local name, and as such people in North Carolina's 5th District may well think Rep. Foxx is actually one of them. (Spelling of last names is often different in that area of North Carolina where education outside of reading the Judaic/Christian Bible is not embraced, e.g., Poteet is often Poteat, and Prewitt is often Preut.) Finally, the question remains as to why Rep. Foxx, who is reportedly a member of the academy would even consider leaving her research, teaching, and academic service to enter politics?

As for Rep. Foxx's reported desire to take a look at the DOE's "gainful-employment rule", if she is, indeed, truly a member of the academy, then there can only be one view of this rule, it must stand. With the likes of Maine's Republican Senator Olympia Snowe's husband's current employment (and former Governor of Maine) as chairman of the board of the Education Management Corporation (EDMC), it stands to reason why Republicans are opposed to implimentation of the rule. Many of the degrees offered via EDMC's plhethora of forprofit institutes, colleges, and universities will suffer tremendously, if they servive. The good well-meaning people of north eastern North Carolina who live in that state's 5th congressional district deserve better. The question remains, again, though, as to why a local isn't serving as the area's elected official in DC, instead of a wannabe born and raised in New York City.

The matter here, then, is far greater than whether or not Rep. Foxx is a nut, or wannabe. The issue is why isn't public education in the area preparing leaders, e.g., Rep. Foxx's former employer comes to mind, Boone, North Carolina's Appalachian State University. I have two nieces who took degrees from NC's ASU: one a Bachelors and Masters, and the other her Masters. Oddly enough, both women like their mother had done, married men who hold only a high school degree and as such have lacking long term employment.

In Fall 1992, I joined my late father and his family at the 75th anniversary of the founding of a Southern Baptist Church where my paternal grandparents, and great grandparents are buried in the church's adjoining graveyard. At the end of the lenghty surmon, the preacher looked out at the crowded sanctuary and said, "You, your wife, and children are really going to enjoy what we are going to be doing here for the next four Sunday evening services."

Unlike panacea, though, I do not currently live full-time in Rep. Foxx's congressional district. It is all I can do to stand spending being in the area to visit my mother, and the land her family originally settled in 1769, most of which is now in a North Carolina state park. Having grown-up from age 8 in SLO, California, then, returning east for college, which included a Ph. D. from one of the Ivy League universities, I know how to read what Rep. Foxx is up to, as the locals in the 5th District would put it. To that end, I encourage my fellow members of the academy to let Rep. Foxx know that the DOE's gainful-employment rule must stand.

5. tgraham13 - January 26, 2011 at 08:31 am

There are tens of thousands of professional educators in the for-profit sector. We get up in the morning and look in our mirrors and see people who are genuinely passionate about helping underserved students. We are neither rapacious nor fraudulent. Many of our students have been through years of sub-par elementary and secondary education solely because of their geography and demography. We are unable to fix that for all of them, but some of them walk out of our schools having turned their lives around. We get letters and visits from them for years afterward. These we cherish.

Because Stephen Eisman and his fellow short-sellers figured out how to manipulate Senator Harkin and the GAO for their own profit, many thousands of good people have become unemployed, 600 just this week.

Furthermore, if allowed to go forward Gainful Employment will make college unavailable for a few million underserved students. The total foregone income differential for those uneducated young people will be nearly a trillion dollars over their lifetimes, calculated using a conservative $400,000 each. A couple of hundred billion dollars of income taxes will never hit the treasury. All of the people who are causing this train wreck will be comfortably retired by the time the last chapter is written.

Gainful Employment is a well-intentioned disaster. It should be scrapped. It is the job of Congress to make laws, not the Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan has over-reached, and his legacy will be lamentable unless cooler heads prevail.

6. bearjimmy - January 26, 2011 at 08:54 am

tgraham13 is advocating that the rest of us subsidize the "tens of thousands of professional educators in the for-profit sector" via the likes of government issued loans so their students can attend college, and the stock holders who own the for-profit institutes, colleges, and universities can make money. Wherein we the public already pay for public education via our taxes at the local, state, and national levels, tgraham13 argues that the lacking education many students at for-profit colleges show up with is reason for us to pay a second time when a graduate or dropout of a for-profit college fails to repay their student loan. This is sound reasoning why the DOE's gainful-employment rule must stand. Just how many "professional educators" of wannabe chefs, interior designers, etc. can society afford to support, when, indeed, the majority of the money earned by for-profit institutes, colleges, and universities owned by the likes of EDMC ends up in the bank accounts of stockholders? The gainful-employment rule must stand.

7. studentperspective - January 26, 2011 at 09:10 am

Thank you bearjimmy! If these 'professional educators' cared so much about the underserved then they would do a better job. But in reality, can they? Not because they do not care, I believe that many truly do, but because their hands are tied by (corporate) administration. Let them in; pass them along. Isn't this one reason why K-12 has failed miserably in this country? It is most sickening to hear corporate officials, with titles like 'Chancellor' boasting about their mission of help. What a crock! These institutions found a niche, a captive audience easily manipulated and convinced.

I am not a fan of big government but as long as Title IV money is being used to fund these institutions (public, private, for-profit or non-profit) then some serious, legitimate oversight is in order. Playing on the fears and emotions of the underserved is downright criminal. Someone has to look out for them. Unfortunately, this someone is NOT Ms. Foxx.

8. feudi - January 26, 2011 at 10:23 am

Pell grants should not be available for prisoners. Jail should be a punishment - not a path to postsecondary education. Pell grants and subsidized direct loans should not be available to for profit schools either. Why should taxpayer dollars be used to fund private gains? By the same token, for profits should not be subjected to the same degree of federal regulations that exist at not for profit schools. The 90% Rule at for profit schools should be amended to 50% or 25% to account for unsubsidized direct loans which would remain available to for profit schools.

9. kevinjensen - January 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

Just a point of clarification to some of the information in this article - the gainful employment rules (the portions that became final rules in November) already do apply to public, private, and for profit instiutions alike. All of the media coverage is about for-profit institutions but community colleges, universities, and private schools all over the country have been gearing up for this too.

This may come as a surprise to some but it really shouldn't. Your college administration should be all over this. Special note to schools offering graduate certificates - those programs are covered by the existing and proposed gainful employment rules and will be hit just as hard as the for-profit schools everyone is concerned about.

I'm excited to hear what Mr. Ochoa means when he says that the package of regulation that is about to be released will be "significantly different."

10. slnachbar - January 26, 2011 at 11:07 am

With a true unemployment rate of close to eighteen percent, the Pell Grant should be exempt from spending cuts; in fact, the number of available grants, as well as the total appropriation, should be increased. If the program is cut, students will need to add to their indebtedness, work more hours at a job (assuming part-time work is available off-campus should college work-study be cut, too), come up with the money out of their pockets, or reduce their course load and graduate later.

The alternatives are less attractive.

In a good economy, where there may be more part-time jobs available, the government can actually cut financial aid. Schools can also limit tuition increases, so costs become more managible to families. Students will also have more incentive to graduate into a good economy; they would rather not take a chance on the next year. Lastly, families that are better off are in a better position to pay for college expenses.

But this is not a good economy and therefore, this is not the time to be making such cuts.

The country is better off keeping students who are making progress to a degree in school on route to completing their degree. They would otherwise be at a disadvantage in the labor force against non-college students for lower wage jobs; the worker who is not in college is more likely to stay. They would also be at a diadvantage against experienced workers who already have their degree and full-time work--those people are willing to work for less than they would have earned when they finished college.

Continuing and expanding grant and work-study programs is also important for reducing student indebtedness. There is no reason we should be sending students into the workforce with debts in excess of thirty thousand dollars. They would need more than ten years to pay them back, while contributing less to the rest of the economy. Work-study provides on-campus jobs, especially when there are fewer off-campus opportunities, and most students are willing to work. Work also helps them to better manage their time.

When I started college more than thirty years ago, in-state tuition at a state university was less than a thousand dollars. A twenty percent increase meant coming up with another two hundred bucks--and most schools did not raise tuition by double digits. A student could work for the extra two hundred dollars or parents would fork it over reluctantly. Today, in-state tuition is more than ten thousand dollars and students cannot make up a double digit increase by earning more money, unless they postpone their graduation.

I am all for tighter regulations that would favor students who are making satisfactory progress towards a degree, as opposed to those who linger around campus indecisively. The president has stressed that he would like to see more Americans complete college degrees. Our financial aid policies should encourage this type of behavior while being reflective of economic conditions.

11. dobbsart - January 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

@panacea and @bearjimmy - please refrain from using this space to make ad hominem attacks on people who live in certain places, just because you either can't stand where you live or have issues with your childhood. My in-laws, as well as many close acquaintances and friends, live in Rep. Foxx's district, and not one of them agrees with her philosophy. It happens to be where they live, which is a beautiful part of the country, and trust me, more progressive in many non-obvious ways than lots of supposedly "educated" northern spots where I have resided.

It's fine to critique Rep. Foxx - believe me, I have no problem with that, and she's a public figure to boot - but quit it with the outdated southern stereotypes. There are plenty of uneducated, ignorant rednecks in all parts of this country of ours. You two have proven yourselves to be among them.

12. dobbsart - January 26, 2011 at 11:15 am

And @bearjimmy - her district isn't in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, it's the northwestern part, in the foothills near the Virginia line. If you really grew up there, you should know that.

13. angela3511 - January 26, 2011 at 11:40 am

I live in Rep. Foxx's district (don't blame me, I didn't vote for her!), unfortunately. I don't actually know a single person who would admit to voting for her. Even my husband, a fairly rabid Republican, won't vote for her. I haven't yet figured out how she continues to be elected.

As a constituent and an educator of low-income and first-generation college students, however, you better believe that I will be sending an email immediately.

Dobbsart is right: most of us in the 5th district don't agree with her policies and not all of us are Southern Baptists who are anti-gay and anti-abortion. In fact, given the large number of highly educated individuals thanks to Appalachian State University, most of us are actually very accepting of others. Bearjimmy and Panacea are just perpetuating an outdated stereotype of Appalachia and southerners.

@Jimmybear: Appalachian State University actually has prepared a number of leaders. Last time I checked, higher education wasn't supposed to focus exclusively on selecting a spouse. Instead of blaming a college for your nieces' choice in partners, perhaps it would be more useful to look at the example their mother provided. But who is to say that your nieces aren't perfectly happy with their high school educated partners? I've known plenty of Ivy league educated people who choose partners with a seemingly lesser degree of education and were very happy with their choice. Your classism is showing.

14. studentperspective - January 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

This has been a very interesting dialog about Rep. Foxx and her constituency but let's not lose sight of the real issues. This country needs real, honest, capable leaders no matter which side of the aisle they claim. This country also needs an educated citizenry. Believe me when I say that I have seen plenty wrong with the for-profit sector yet there are reasons that they not only survive but flourish. Let's examine that. Let's open some dialog on why they are so successful. If we truly have failed as a nation to reach and serve the 'underserved' then that needs fixing but not so that mega corporations can fill their coffers and please their investors. Part of me doesn't even mind that as long as these 'schools' actually do what they claim. But the numbers tell us otherwise. I am interested in what others have to say about this. Keep in mind too that the for-profit sector is not limited to the undergrduate or certificate seeking population. These schools claim a sizeable market at the graduate level as well where Title IV funding is even larger to meet the graduate tuition rates. The for-profit sector is also not limited to seated (on the ground) classes or online only. They are entrenched in both. Let's talk about what higher education needs to succeed then we can determine how to view the for-profit sector.

15. 12080243 - January 26, 2011 at 03:09 pm

Council for Higher Education Accreditation: Now there's a waste of time and money. Let's take for example one of its accrediting organizations, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and one of its accredited schools, the University of Southern Mississippi. When questions of failures of integrity were brought to their attention, they, against their own principles and standards, punished the messenger and promoted the miscreants. For details, see www.usmnews.net, "AACSB Accreditation: A Reliable Authority on Academic Quality?" (A title inspired by a speech from a CHEA leader) and "University and AACSB Diversity". Both research reports were presented at academic meetings and published. They have been updated with information obtained in Mississippi Open Records requests along with the names of participants from the University of Southern Mississippi and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. If you want to know about the actual, documented actions of an accrediting organization most academics are reluctant to discuss, visit www.usmnews.net.

Chauncey M. DePree, Jr., DBA
School of Accountancy
College of Business
University of Southern Mississippi

16. betterschools - January 26, 2011 at 06:25 pm

Chauncey - I don't know why you would be surprised at this. AACSB is a faculty full employment guild. The only real (i.e., behaviorally backed) definition of quality that they adhere to is: "Hire only people who look like us, pay them well, and promote them above others." What you don't mention is how much AACSB adds to the cost of education with no evidence of increased outcomes.

17. 12080243 - January 26, 2011 at 06:44 pm

Good points, betterschools. Research sometimes tells us, confirms for us, what we already suspect. The added value is that the research reports provide evidence to inform the uninitiated and potential for future direction.

Chaunce (see 15 above)

18. panacea - January 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm

@dobbsart: You are right about my comment re that locale of North Carolina. I should not have said that. I apologize.

I stand by my comments on Foxx, however. This is the woman who said the gay bashing motives of Matthew Sheppard's murderers was a hoax and that the government would put seniors to death under the ACA.

19. bearjimmy - January 27, 2011 at 03:12 pm

@dobbstart, it is refreshing to see that people who read this blog are indeed thinking, and not just spouting off. To that end, you are correct, North Carolina's Congressional District % is indeed in the northwestern tip of the state, and not as I'd written above "northeastern". No clue on my part why I wrote the wrong are of the state, as clearly I know this area of North Carolina having campaigned for a state senate seat across 7 counties stretching from the eastern Tennessee border, to the western edge of Winston-Salem.

Mobilizing the vote in a mountainous area like western North Carolina's Congressional District 5 is difficult, except for the men who call themselves "preacher". For a rural Southern Baptist living in this area, their local church is literally the center of life, i.e., country club. To that end, whatever the preacher says, espeically from his pulpit, is taken as the truth, with few willing to ask questions, e.g., Southern Baptist congregation in Waynesville, NC during G. W. Bush's re-election campaign. Rep. Foxx will be able to stay in the U. S. House as long as she wants.

Angela3511, it is actually your classism that is showing, in that you don't seem to know any of the locals who voted from Rep. Foxx. I have at least 1,000 relatives and family friends in the District who did.

Hopefully, members of the academy who adhere to the concept of a liberal education in the arts and sciences as the focus of a college education will join me in letting Rep. Foxx know that hte DOE's gainful-employment rule must stand.

20. dgar6165 - January 28, 2011 at 01:09 pm

The gainful employment law if enacted needs to apply to all higher learning institutions, not just for-profit. The proprietary school where I work is regionally accredited and has been accepted for the AQIP accreditation process under the HLC. Our career services are top notch even in this time of high unemployment. Please do not paint all for-profit institutions with the same brush. In our case, we are ethical and dedicated to our students.

21. angela3511 - February 11, 2011 at 03:00 pm

@ bearjimmy: It's not classism. I'm from a blue collar, working class family, and the majority of my family members worked in furniture or textiles until most of the plants were closed and moved overseas. I'm a first-generation college student and was only able to attend college thanks to scholarships and loans. My husband's family members are mostly diehard Republicans and Southern Baptists, which makes for interesting discussions during the holidays! Despite my working class roots and connections, I still don't know anyone who voted for her. I'm sure some of my acquaintances did, but no one I know has every mentioned voting for her, even during the campaign period.

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