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September 14, 2018


Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan, along with 20 other attorneys general, today formally opposed U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate the Gainful Employment Rule, which requires schools to provide information about their programs’ costs, debt load, success rate, expected earnings and other critical information so that students and families can make informed choices.

In formal comments filed with the U.S. Department of Education today, Madigan and the other attorneys general argued that DeVos’ plan to eliminate the Gainful Employment Rule violates the department’s legal obligations and disregards strong evidence that accountability standards are needed to protect students and taxpayers who interact with these for-profit schools – and often find themselves mired in onerous debt and with a worthless degree.

“It is incumbent on the Department of Education to ensure that programs prepare students for employment that will allow them to repay their student loans,” Madigan said. “Programs that cannot meet this minimum standard should not be eligible to accept federal student loans.”

The Gainful Employment Rule enforces the Higher Education Act’s requirement that applicable programs “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” The Rule was prompted by concerns that some career-focused programs leave students with unaffordable levels of debt relative to their post-graduation earnings - leading to widespread loan default.

The Gainful Employment Rule has two key aspects that help prospective students make informed choices. First, the Rule requires schools to provide information about the program’s average debt load, the loan repayment rate of students who enroll in the program, the percentage of students who graduate, the number of graduates who obtain employment in a field related to the program, and average earnings of graduates.

Second, the rule assesses whether schools’ programs provide education and training to their students that lead to earnings that will allow students to pay back their student loan debts. If the programs repeatedly fail these metrics, federal student loans and grants would no longer be provided to those programs.

Secretary DeVos’ proposal to do away with the Gainful Employment Rule comes less than a year after Madigan and other attorneys general sued DeVos and the Department of Education for violating federal law by refusing to enforce this Rule. That lawsuit remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Madigan and the other attorneys general said in their formal comments today to the Education Department that the decision to rescind the Rule without replacing it with similar protections for students will directly harm students and taxpayers and undermine the Higher Education Act.

Joining Madigan in sending the comments were the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.


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