Opinion: New ‘gainful employment’ regulation is weak medicine for a strong ailment

The fact is, under-regulated for-profit college companies are a clear and present danger to the financial health of millions of traditionally underserved students and to the competitiveness of our country.

Fortunately, there is still hope.

The gainful employment regulation has not deterred the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin, from continuing its investigations of the for-profit college sector.

Nor has it dissuaded 10 state prosecutors, under the leadership of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, from delving into the well-documented abuses of prominent members of the for-profit sector.

For-profit college companies need to deliver on the promise of opportunity that they repeatedly have made to students and taxpayers alike. That promise is unambiguously articulated in every one of their recruitment ads, which depict happy graduates working in state-of-the-art jobs acquired thanks to their newly earned degrees.

None of these ads include disclaimers declaring “results not typical” or “individual results may vary,” which consumers have come to expect whenever advertisements portray the exception rather than the rule.

It is now up to the Senate and the states to provide students the protection they need. We can’t meet the workforce demands of tomorrow unless we clean up the for-profit college sector today.

Jose Cruz is vice president for education policy and practice at The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focusing on opportunity and achievement gaps in K-12 schools and higher education.