Education Sector Biweekly Digest, 09.16.10

Publication Date: 
September 16, 2010

We’re thrilled to be back with our 99th issue of our Biweekly Digest! We’ve got a new look and, of course, fresh content to start the school year off right. In a new Education Sector report, Policy Analyst Ben Miller examines the controversial “gainful employment” rule, which would make it more difficult for for-profit colleges to access federal funds. Miller identifies the most vulnerable institutions and programs. Also, Kevin Carey, Kris Amundson, Susan Headden, and other team members deliver other great back-to-school commentary. Finally, join us this Tuesday for “Getting to Graduation,” an event on tackling dropouts in education.

This Week:

The Effect of 'Gainful Employment' RegulationsAnchor

The for-profit sector has grown dramatically in recent years, largely free of federal regulation. But if the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal on "gainful employment” takes effect, that freedom would be significantly curtailed.

Under the proposed rules, vocational training programs would be judged by the ratio of the debt that graduates assume relative to their current earnings and the rate at which they are able to repay it. If programs offered by for-profit colleges exceed certain thresholds on those measures, they risk losing eligibility for federal student aid.

The proposed rules are controversial, especially among the for-profit sector, which receives 90 percent of their revenue from federal grants and loans. Yet until now, important questions about the proposed standard have been left unanswered: Which institutions would be most vulnerable? What types of programs are most likely to be affected?

In a new Education Sector report, Are You Gainfully Employed? Setting Standards for For-Profit Degrees, Policy Analyst Ben Miller takes a look at the potential influence of the proposed gainful employment rules. He uses publicly available data to present—for the first time—a picture of what effect the proposal could have on vocational programs at colleges and universities across the country.

The report shows that it is individual programs, rather than entire institutions, that are most likely to face problems under the new regulations. According to Miller’s analysis of more than 12,600 programs, 504—or about 4 percent—would be ineligible for federal student aid funds. That percentage is a bit lower than the department’s estimates. Of the remaining programs, 16 percent would be eligible, 65 percent would be eligible with a debt warning, and 15 percent would be restricted. Medical assistant and culinary training programs, Miller finds, are the most likely to be declared ineligible under the gainful employment regulations.  |  Read the Full Report...

Also From Education Sector:

The Sincerest Form of Flattery Anchor

In his latest column for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Policy Director Kevin Carey reviews The Great Brain Race, Ben Wildavsky’s recently published book about international higher education.  Carey uses the book as a platform to reflect on the global future of higher education and what other countries can learn from the United States in building world-renowned universities. “Indeed, the biggest danger in thinking about the global future of higher education is overestimating what we've already learned,” Carey argues. |  Read More...

Writing Skill Is the Last Word

How well do students write? In an article for the Lumina Foundation, Senior Writer Susan Headden investigates two college programs that take this question to heart. Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., have established writing centers, incorporate writing in their core curriculums, and require students to assemble a writing portfolio for graduation. This is all part of an effort to develop students’ writing and ensure proficiency.

“The ability to communicate effectively—as a desired learning outcome of college, it is at the top of most educators' and employers' lists, right up there with critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Many even see it as the learning outcome that trumps all the rest,” Headden argues. A student’s writing is a demonstration of what they’ve learned. Headden expects that with increased pressures for greater accountability in higher education, writing initiatives are likely to proliferate.  |  Read More...

A Back-to-School Pop Quiz

In a recent commentary for the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Communications Manager Kris Amundson gives Virginia policymakers a pop quiz on student learning in the commonwealth. The quiz, albeit a fun exercise, helps Amundson illustrate serious matters preventing Virginia’s educational success—including subpar standards and international competitiveness—and steps policymakers can take to resolve them.  |  Read More...

Our Best Work, Together at Last…Anchor

From redesigning teachers' work to lowering student loan default rates, the fourth edition of the ES Review brings together, in one setting, some of our best work from 2009–10. Abridged versions of our reports, commentary, and more—they are all here in one downloadable PDF. If you are new to us, the ES Review is the perfect place to get to know us and our commitment to offering independent analysis and innovative ideas in education. If you are a regular Education Sector reader, it's a convenient reminder of our original research and ongoing effort to translate complex ideas for a wide audience.  |  Read More...

Upcoming Events:Anchor

Getting to Graduation: Event on September 21, 2010

The Obama administration has made turning around the low graduation rates of America's worst high schools central to its school reform push. That's the right goal and an achievable one. But only if we also address a less well-known problem: the scandalously low graduation rates of America's worst colleges.

Join us and Washington Monthly this Tuesday, September 21, 2010, for a two-part discussion on "getting to graduation." The first panel will feature leading researchers, policymakers, and foundation leaders discussing the findings of a Washington Monthly special report "Fighting the High School Dropout Crisis." The second panel will focus on the recently publishedWashington Monthly College Guide. The issue features work from Education Sector analysts Ben Miller, Kevin Carey, and Erin Dillon, including “College Dropout Factories,” “The Mayo Clinic of Higher Ed,” and the 2010 community college rankings. Learn more about this event and register!  |  Read More...


New Digest Look, New… Anchor

We’re thrilled about our new look for the Biweekly Digest, but did you know there’s something different about too? That’s right, our website got a facelift! Not only is our new website easy on the eyes and a snap to navigate, it has plenty of features to keep you engaged in our work: image and chart galleries, expert profiles, video and audio archives from all our events (and more), newly added issue areas and feature pages, social media feeds, an incredible search function, and more! So take a moment to visit us, see what’s new, and tell us what you think! (Seriously… we love feedback!)  |  Read More...

Welcome Padmini!

Join us in welcoming a top-notch intern for the fall semester: Padmini Jambulapati. Padmini, a second-year public policy graduate student at Georgetown University, comes to Education Sector after a recent internship with our neighbors, the Alliance for Excellent Education. Padmini also served as a Teach for America corps member in North Las Vegas, Nevada, where she taught middle school English language arts for three years. Welcome Padmini!  |  Read More...

Trending on the Quick and the Ed:Anchor

A selection of our most-read blog posts of the summer.

The Great Teaching Blind Spot

"…Most teachers are unionized public employees with contractually defined job descriptions whose pay falls within a narrow middle-income distribution. This has a huge effect on the way we perceive them. …"  |  Read More...

Step Two: An Action Plan

"During his higher education speech earlier this week, President Obama talked at some length about college costs … I can’t help but notice that when he talked during the health care debate about the looming Medicare solvency crisis and bending down the long-term medical cost curve, he immediately followed with an actual plan to control health care costs. …" |  Read More...

Defining 'Best Value' Colleges

"U.S. News came out with its 2011 list of college rankings yesterday (Harvard is #1! Shocker!) It also published a list of “great schools, great prices. These are the schools that are supposed to offer the best education for the best price. But what defines the ‘best’ education? ..."  |  Read More...