Opinion: Reforms That Will Stand the Test of Time

"When Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. was named president of Purdue University in 2013, I sent him an email saying, 'Welcome to the revolution!' My email explained that higher education is changing in terms of whom we teach, what we teach, when we teach, and where we teach it. Last year, speaking on a panel at a higher-education symposium in my role as president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, I said that higher education had transformed itself, but I went on to suggest that the failure of the federal government to update its policies — especially the Higher Education Act — limited the ability of all educators to fully seize this moment," Steve Gunderson writes in a commentary for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"This year will determine whether public policy can respond to these changes in ways that stand the test of time. For many of us, the Department of Education’s current efforts to revise both the gainful-employment and borrower-defense regulations provide a real opportunity for civic leadership by the government and by all of us affected by such rules.

I have lived through the regulations advanced by the previous federal administration, and, despite my best efforts to encourage and promote a balanced approach, the results were an ideological attack against those of us engaged in the delivery of postsecondary career education, and especially those of us connected to multigeneration, family-owned institutions. According to my organization’s analysis, since 2010 almost 2,000 for-profit institutions across the country have closed, resulting in more than 1.3 million students losing access to the education they need to move into the middle class.

It did not need to be this way. Virtually everyone in higher education believes that any student who is the victim of academic fraud should be able to seek relief, and that students should be able to find gainful employment in their area of academic study. Most of us would even suggest that some common-outcome metrics for all programs at all colleges would be a service to prospective students.
Today, the negotiators engaged in seeking consensus on these issues have an opportunity to advance good public policy. The temptation, however, is for one side to resist any change and the other side to advocate for a complete reversal. Such actions reflect today’s polarization of the body politic, but they do nothing to advance good public policy."

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Publication Date: 2/13/2018

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