Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Obama Is Deploying 'Gainful Employment' Regulations To Threaten For-Profit Colleges

The Obama administration claims its latest college crusade will help students. On the contrary, its “gainful employment” regulations amount to a hostile takeover attempt by government of the fastest growing higher education sector in the country that will hurt students, taxpayers, and the economy.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledges that most career colleges make a vital contribution to American global competitiveness. The few that don’t leave students with crushing debt and no degree to show for it; however, that outcome is hardly unique to the private or for-profit sector.

Rather than hold bad actors accountable, both public and for-profit alike, through existing laws, since 2010 Duncan has singled out and tried to use his department to exert more control over the for-profit career college  sector, which has swelled from 200,000 students in the late 1980s to 2 million as of 2010.

Back in 2010 the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a set of proposed gainful employment rules requiring private for-profit colleges to meet mandated loan repayment rates and debt-to-earnings levels before their students could qualify for federal student aid.

The final regulations unveiled in 2011 deemed students’ employment “gainful” only if it was in an occupation recognized by the federal government. They further mandated student repayment and debt load ratios that a federal judge struck down the following year for being “arbitrary and capricious.”

Undeterred last year the Obama administration revived its crusade against what Duncan called “predatory” career colleges with proposed mandates that are no less arbitrary or capricious than their predecessors.

Under the new proposed regulations unveiled earlier this year, for students to qualify for federal aid for-profit career colleges must prove the estimated annual loan payments of graduates do not exceed 20 percent of their discretionary earnings, or 8 percent of their total earnings, and the default rate for former students does not exceed 30 percent.

Duncan justified the move insisting that 72 percent of for-profit career colleges graduated students who earned less than high school dropouts. That claim has since been roundly dismissed. And there’s ample reason to doubt other claims by his department.

Department of Education officials estimate that 90 percent of career college students losing federal financial aid because of gainful employment regulations will find suitable alternatives. Actual figures tell a very different story.

Should the Obama administration succeed and gainful employment regulations take effect next year, more than 4 out of 10 students currently enrolled at for-profit career colleges could lose access to federal financial aid, according to research by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Over the next decade as many as 7.5 million students could lose access.

And who are these students?

Most for-profit career college students are older adults, including members of the military. They are also far more likely to be from traditionally underrepresented populations, including minorities and first-generation college-goers.

These students seek out private for-profit career schools precisely because the public and non-profit sectors aren’t the right options for them, including not offering the desired degree programs or flexible schedules that help them balance family and career responsibilities.

Forcing these students into schools and programs the Obama administration (and its union allies) prefer won’t help them or taxpayers.

The net taxpayer cost of a private for-profit college student is $183 compared to more than $13,000 per public college student. If private for-profit options aren’t available, many of these students would have to transfer to public colleges at cost taxpayers nationwide an additional $1.7 billion annually. In the long-run gainful employment regulations could cost students and taxpayers even more.

As many as 23 million skilled and educated workers are needed over the next decade, and private for-profit career colleges specialize in offering degree programs in the highest-growth occupational fields.

At a time when 90 million Americans are undereducated, 12 million are unemployed, and family incomes are down, gainful employment regulations are the last thing American students, taxpayers, or our economy needs.


Obama Administration’s New Teacher Equity Plan Will Not Improve Access to Good Teachers

We can all agree that all students should have access to top-notch teachers. But the approach the Obama administration is taking is unlikely to lead to this.

Last Wednesday, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent 14,000 school districts a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter outlining administration guidance on resource equity—ensuring resources and good teachers are as available to underprivileged children as to others—and other education policies.

The 37-page letter, “breathtaking in its scope,” as Roger Clegg wrote at National Review Online, noting that the Obama administration will be looking at funding disparities both within school districts and between them with a focus on access to effective teachers.

Although states already are required to have teacher equity plans under No Child Left Behind, the administration’s teacher equity proposal from July requires states to revisit NCLB’s Title I requirements by April 15, 2015.

As noted in July, the administration also will incorporate new data from the Office of Civil Rights into “state profiles” to flag “states where effective teachers aren’t reaching at-risk students.” According to Education Week, the profiles could include information comparing teacher experience levels, attendance rates and qualifications at high- and low-poverty schools.

The guidance issued last week by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said Office for Civil Rights’ analyses will determine if school districts are intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against minority students in their allocation of resources—including effective teachers.

But to define teacher quality, Office for Civil Rights’ guidance primarily uses “teachers’ licensure and certification status, whether teachers have completed appropriate training and professional development, whether teachers are inexperienced, whether they are teaching out of their field and other indicators of disparities in access to strong teachers.” Districts that don’t measure up are urged to “proactively assess their policies.”

The problem is top-down enforcement of teacher equity requires states to report largely on input-based measures—such as teacher credentials—as proxies of teacher effectiveness. Yet research suggests that inputs-based measures, such as paper credentials, have little to no impact on teacher effectiveness.

The question of access to effective teachers, specifically for disadvantaged students, was considered in the Vergara v. California case in June. In the decision, California Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu struck down five California laws that govern the hiring and firing of teachers, laying the groundwork for school officials to potentially retain the most effective teachers and dismiss ineffective teachers.

Office for Civil Rights’ letter begins with a reference to Brown v. Board of Education, as did Treu’s decision. Treu compared Vergara to landmark cases that defined educational equality, stating, “While these cases addressed the issue of lack of equality of education based on the discrete facts raised therein, here this Court is directly faced with issues that compel it to apply these constitutional principles to the quality of the educational experience.”

According to Heritage legal fellow Elizabeth Slattery, Treu’s opinion “held that a disparity in the quality of education violates students’ right to equality because ‘grossly ineffective teachers’ have a ‘real and appreciable’ impact on the students.”

Although both Vergara and the Office for Civil Rights guidance mention Brown and recognize the importance of ensuring all students have access to quality teachers, the guidance issued by the Department of Education is unlikely to help achieve that goal.

The best way to ensure all students have access to quality teachers is not to micromanage school districts through bureaucratic teacher equity plans. Access to effective teachers and educational options can be better achieved through school choice measures that empower parents to choose schools—and teachers—to ensure the needs of their children are met.


New York City Council likely to meddle in college students' sex lives

New York City officials want to require “affirmative consent” not just for sex, but for “sexual encounters” in general, at colleges in New York City, including private colleges, reports the Wall Street Journal. Since a lot of consent is not considered “affirmative” by supporters of such requirements (see this discussion of a similar law in California), the proposed “affirmative consent” ordinance will intrude deeply into students’ private lives, while doing nothing to prevent rape.

New York City criminal-defense attorney Ron Kuby said an affirmative-consent policy will likely help protect accused students as well, by clarifying sexual boundaries. “From a criminal-defense standpoint I think it’s laudatory,” he said.“It may take the fun and spontaneity out of sex, but I don’t care. That’s for the kids to worry about.”

Kuby was a key player in the ironically-named Center for Constitutional Rights, whose founder, Bill Kunstler, an icon in the liberal New York legal community, once said that he didn’t believe in criticizing civil-liberties violations, atrocities, or gulags in communist countries like Vietnam, since that would undermine the progressive cause.

Contrary to Kuby’s misguided claim, the requirement won’t protect accused students. In fact, even if a student actually obtains “affirmative” consent to certain things, no one will believe him. The idea of a student asking for permission to do something like touch someone else’s intimate areas is so laughable that no one would believe he actually asked for it and got it (at least not anyone my age sitting on a campus disciplinary body – I practiced education law for years, and helped represent a private college, a state board of education and a local school board in litigation as well as students and faculty in other cases, in addition to working for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights).

If you were on a campus disciplinary body, would you actually believe a man who claimed he asked his girlfriend, “may I massage your clitoris?” or “may I touch your breast?” Few young people would ask such a thing for fear of killing the mood through sheer discomfort on the part of the previously-willing person asked such an awkward question. Given that reality, an adjudicator would tend to disbelieve a young man who claimed he explicitly asked his partner (since a randy young person would have powerful reasons not to ask a partner even about sexual contact that is likely to be wanted or welcome). Thus, even innocent students who comply with an absurd “affirmative” consent requirement for sexual touching are likely to be convicted.

Applying an “affirmative consent” standard beyond sex to sexual touching and sexual interaction is especially problematic. When it comes to intimate touching (which can give rise to sexual assault allegations), as opposed to penetration (which gives rise to rape allegations), obtaining affirmative consent in advance is both less feasible, and less believable, as I have previously explained. By contrast, it is believable that someone would ask for sex itself (which, if credited, could defeat a rape allegation), as opposed to intimate touching. Conversely, imposing an “affirmative” consent requirement does absolutely nothing for rape victims (victims of forcible penetration), since a person who lies about whether he committed rape will just lie and say the victim verbally consented.

In the criminal justice system, false allegations are relatively uncommon (although far from non-existent). But false allegations are much more common on campus, as even feminist adjudicators seem to find out once they end up adjudicating cases.  Yale is very pro-complainant, requires “affirmative” consent, and suggests “verbal” consent is the preferred method of obtaining consent.

But even its staunchly feminist adjudicators find many sexual harassment allegations (over half of the allegations at Yale processed in 2013) to be “unsubstantiated,” despite broad definitions of what is prohibited.  See this link to KC Johnson’s piece at Minding the Campus criticizing Yale for what he viewed as lacking concern for due process — linking to a 2013 Yale report summarizing the pending and completed cases involving sexual harassment or rape – since Yale proceeds based even on anonymous allegations, and a simple preponderance is needed for conviction.  Campus conviction rates rose further in 2014, as colleges came under more federal pressure to expel accused people (and complainants recovered large amounts of money in legal settlements with colleges as a result), but Yale continued to record unsubstantiated allegations.

In practice, these “affirmative” consent laws discriminate against people in long-term, monogamous relationships. California’s similar “affirmative” consent law effectively discriminates against people in long-term relationships, by saying in the language of the statute that a relationship can’t even be an “indicator” of consent “by itself.”

But a relationship, and a couple’s past consensual sexual activity, can shed crucial light on whether it is plausible that the couple later willingly engaged in the same kind of activity. For example, State v. Garron (2003) reversed a sexual assault conviction because the court had excluded much of the complainant’s overall “course of conduct over a six-year period” with the accused. Evidence relevant to whether she consented included her “repeated physical contact” with him, and her past “kisses” of him and “grabbing” his “derrière.”

And even in contract law, where stricter consent requirements apply, consent or agreement can be inferred from the parties’ past relationship, such as their “course of dealing,” or “course of performance.

Verbal or “affirmative” consent is more evident in fleeting sexual relationships than in long-term monogamous relationships. People explicitly negotiate with hookers and virtual strangers, as to whom there is thus verbal, “affirmative” consent (like a hooker and a john haggling over exactly what sex to engage in for what price, since one doesn’t want sex, and the other doesn’t want to pay). Such verbal discussion is often unnecessary among people in committed relationships, among whom it doesn’t happen when it comes to intimate touching.

The new California law and the proposed New York ordinance endanger people in committed relationships that later go sour even when the sex in question was enjoyed by both partners. Some campus sexual assault allegations happen because the accused stopped dating the accuser, or cheated on her during a long-term relationship. This law affects people in long-term relationships more than people in fleeting sexual encounters.

Intimates don’t “affirmatively” consent to many things, since there’s no need. My wife and daughter don’t ask for permission before hugging me, because I am not a stranger who might mind a hug. And my wife and I don’t explicitly discuss whether to have sex, we use euphemisms that only are an “indicator” of consent based on the prior history of our relationship — something the California law discourages considering.


Financial pressures sometimes cause Australian parents in affluent suburbs to make do with government schools

If the demographics of the area are good, the school should give good results.  The quality of the pupils is a major factor in the quality of the education delivered. To make sure of a good school environment, 40% of Australian teenagers attend private schools

MIDDLE-CLASS parents are flocking to high-performing government schools for their children, forcing some prestigious private colleges to cut their fees.

Elite private schools have lost 100,000 students and $1.2 billion in revenue to cheaper, independent, Catholic and top government schools in a decade. The global financial crisis has stoked demand from professional families for fee-free state schooling in affluent inner-city suburbs, new data modelled for The Weekend Australian reveals. Some private schools, which can charge more than $20,000 a year, are now offering half-price discounts to lure more students.

Melbourne private school teacher Elizabeth Blaher bought a house close to McKinnon Secondary College so her son would be guaranteed a place in the high-performing government school. She transferred her daughter Emily from a nearby Catholic girls’ school this year — saving the family $10,000 in private school fees.

"Parents often choose a private school believing their children will receive a better education but we have some outstanding public schools in Melbourne that rival the performance of any private school," Ms Blaher said yesterday.

Emily, 16, is flourishing at her new school: the classmates "look out for each other" while the teachers "push you a little bit more".

McKinnon College principal Pitsa Binnion said the school’s focus on high academic results, inclusion and discipline was a magnet for parents. "There’s a very inclusive community at the school, with strong traditional values and high expectations," she said. "Schools can put out wonderful brochures, but it’s the results that matter."

The Hills Grammar School in Kenthurst, in Sydney’s middle-class heartland, lost one in four students during the global financial crisis, with enrolments dropping by 322 between 2008 and last year.

It charges $15,000 for kindergarten and $23,000 for Year 12. Hills Grammar principal Robert Phipps says a few parents had pulled out of the school for financial reasons, although the school also had "deliberately downsized" to retain a personal touch.

"In tough times, parents have looked around," he says. "Some parents have lost jobs, and incomes have not been rising as fast as they did before the GFC.”

Rising education costs — up 5.1 per cent last financial year, outstripping inflation — are fuelling demand for free or low-fee education. Parents are using the government’s My School website and data from national literacy and numeracy tests to compare the performance of top state schools with private colleges.

Australian Development Strat­egies chief executive John Black said professional Gen X women were driving demand for government schooling.

"Professional parents want to send their kids to the lowest-cost school where they are most likely to rub shoulders with the kids of other professionals,” he said. "Right now there is strong ­demand for selective state schools in professional suburbs close to CBDs.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals the pull towards government schooling is strongest in affluent suburbs. The government and independent school sectors each enrolled 105,000 extra students during the decade to 2011, while Catholic schools took on 52,000 more students.

In the nation’s wealthiest suburbs, government schools gained three times more additional students than independent schools. In suburbs where parents were paying the highest 14 per cent of school fees, government enrolments rose by 16,253 during the decade. Private schools in those elite suburbs enrolled 5265 extra students, while Catholic schools gained 6127 more.

Association of Heads of Independent Schools chief executive Geoff Ryan said selective government schools were "putting a lot more pressure on us to perform".

"You do notice an impact on your enrolments when you have a very high-quality selective entry school in your area," he said yesterday. "All schools put a lot more effort into marketing. Schools are always trying to make savings but 70 per cent of the costs are for teachers, so the only way you can reduce labour costs is to increase class sizes and that’s not something parents, teachers or unions are comfortable with."

A website for "last minute" private school enrolments, School Places, is offering discounts for 39 schools in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania, and is soon to launch in Queensland. The company’s chief executive, Natalie Mactier, said the discounts ranged from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for up to six years of schooling.

She said 2000 parents had registered for email alerts since the site was set up five months ago, and the website had already generated $2m in enrolment revenues with $3m more pending.

In Sydney, the Jewish Masada College at St Ives is offering a 30 per cent discount over four years to Year 7 students enrolling next year. Its full fee this year was $20,492.

The My School website shows its enrolments fell from 341 in 2008 — the start of the GFC — to 299 last year.

In Hobart, St Michael’s Collegiate Anglican boarding school for girls is offering a 15 per cent discount on fees for two years.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos called on state governments to build more public schools in inner-city areas to meet growing demand.

"We do not have the infrastructure in the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne to accommodate the parents’ choice of public schooling for their children," he said.

"Parents understand the value of public education but unfortunately (in some areas) it doesn’t exist due to the policy failure of previous governments that closed down public schools.”

Mr Black said private-school enrolments tended to rise and fall with women’s employment rates. Families often relied on the mother’s part-time job to pay school fees and statistics showed demand for private schooling fell in line with employment rates for women in the school’s catchment.

He said the GFC had destroyed full-time jobs for men in the private sector, but created public sector jobs — in health, education and the bureaucracy — for women.

"These Gen X professional mums tend to take the view of a school in terms of outcomes for money spent," he said.


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