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Ed. Dept. Delays Some 'Gainful Employment' Rules

The U.S. Department of Education announced that its proposed regulations intended to hold for-profit colleges accountable for preparing students for gainful employment will be released in two phases—delaying some of the rules to give more time for public comment.

The regulations dealing with eligibility to receive federal student aid will be issued in early 2011 and would go into effect in July 2012. The for-profit college sector has been lobbying hard for the department to reconsider the proposal, and the DOE plans to host several meetings and public hearings to clarify comments received so far.

Regulations on 13 other issues, including some related to gainful employment, are still set to be published Nov. 1 and would go into effect July 1, 2011. These rules are designed to protect students from aggressive or misleading recruiting practices and to provide better information about the effectiveness of career college and training programs.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan maintains that the department is moving forward on the gainful employment regulations, but additional time is needed to be as thoughtful as possible in crafting the rules.

"While a majority of career colleges play a vital role in training our workforce to be globally competitive, some bad actors are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use," he said in a written statement. "These schools and their investors benefit from billions of dollars in taxpayers subsidies, and in return, taxpayers have a right to know that all of these programs are providing solid preparation for a job."

The proposal for rules to reign in for-profit colleges came on the heels of a GAO report outlining deceptive recruiting practices at many schools.

On a related note: Kaplan Higher Education, one of the schools that would be affected by the new DOE gainful employment regulations, today announced a debt-free trial program where students can try out classes before having to pay tuition.

The "Kaplan Commitment" program would let prospective students can take classes for an introductory period to see if the coursework meets their needs before they would have to make a financial commitment. The company also would help assess the students to see if they would likely be successful in their chosen field of study.

Students who don't pass the academic evaluation or choose to withdraw from the program within the specified time would not have to pay for the coursework. The provisional admittance program is designed in part to lower the risk that the federal government lends money unnecessarily to students, according to the company press release.

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