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Education Dept. Is Urged to Drop Efforts to Revive Controversial Rules

A bipartisan group of members of Congress urged the U.S. Education Department on Thursday to abandon its efforts, announced this week, to revive two rules aimed at increasing oversight of colleges to ensure their quality.

In a letter to the education secretary, Arne Duncan, the lawmakers said that instead of attempting to find new formulations of the rules that would pass muster in the courts, the department should seek to attain its goals by working with Congress through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, a process expected to begin next year.

The two rules were struck down by judges following legal challenges mounted by for-profit colleges. One rule, known as “gainful employment,” would have sought to hold colleges accountable for their students’ employability by cutting off student aid to career-oriented programs whose graduates have high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates. The other rule, known as “state authorization,” would have required colleges to seek approval from each state in which they enroll students in online programs.

In its announcement this week, the department said it would revisit the regulations during negotiated rule-making sessions it planned to convene this fall.

The letter to Secretary Duncan was signed by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Rep. Virginia E. Foxx of North Carolina, the Republican chair of the higher-education subcommittee; and Rep. Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, all Democrats.

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