Aaron Engelsrud

Aaron Engelsrud

Is Gainful Employment the only Metric?

This linked article on the Biden Administration’s intent on bringing Obama’s Gainful Employment rule back into play for for-profit universities is fascinating. As a general rule, these universities have had a history of not making the gainful employment standard. This situation leaves students in debt and without the salary necessary to repay their debts. This problem also leaves taxpayers holding the debt when the students can’t repay it.

Protecting students is essential, without a doubt. Making sure that they get the education they pay for and then translate it into increased income is an integral part of that equation. However, this article overlooks some critical facts in discussing the details of the rule. For example, the article points out that the for-profit universities that this rule targets only account for “5 percent of students in higher education.” Given this minimal impact, I wonder if this rule is going far enough or possibly targeting the wrong group of educators with penalties.

Under the new legislation, “all institutions would have to report how their programs fare in comparisons of students’ earnings with their debts, though the penalties would apply only to career programs and those offered at for-profit colleges.” If 95 percent of students attend non-profit public institutions, wouldn’t targeting those institutions be more impactful? Why target a fraction of the institutions accountable for helping students rack up debt.

I am a supporter of higher education in all forms. Colleges and universities have real value and provide students with much more than a simple debt to repay. Much of the value received by students is intangible. You cannot simply boil education down to the salary received by the student post-education. An educated population has a more significant benefit than simply higher salaries. This legislation tries to solve a problem by looking at one factor out of many. Doing so reduces the value of education to nothing more than dollars and cents.