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EDITORIAL: Biden takes aim at for-profit colleges

Progressives have a deep mistrust of the private economy and profit, which explains the Biden administration’s decision to relaunch an assault on certain college programs that critics argue don’t deliver for students.

The Department of Education on Wednesday announced that it would publish a new regulation on Oct. 10 intended to punish colleges whose graduates have either large debt loads in relation to their salaries or earn less than the average high school graduate in their state of residence. The Barack Obama White House pushed a similar effort in 2014, which the Trump administration later reversed.

The new rule is supposed to hold schools accountable for their performance.

There’s nothing wrong with providing taxpayers, students and potential enrollees with pertinent data on graduation rates, costs, job placements, etc. This can help students make decisions and schools better meet the demands of the marketplace.

Yet the bulk of the regulations apply only to for-profit schools, not traditional four-year public institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees and graduate programs. Why ignore such a vast part of the higher education landscape, particularly when state-funded institutions have come under increasing fire for soaring tuition and devalued diplomas?

The answer is that Mr. Obama and now Mr. Biden want to use the power of the state to put many for-profit colleges out of business.

“Once again,” Jason Altmire, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, told The Associated Press, “the department has rushed the process, overlooking critical issues, to hastily implement and weaponize a final Gainful Employment rule against for-profit institutions.”

The regulations impose a two-part test on schools. The first part determines whether graduates make enough money to attack their student debt burden. The second test reviews whether at least half of a program’s graduates earn more than workers in their state with only a high school diploma.

“Programs that fail either test will need to warn students that they’re at risk of losing federal money,” the AP reported. “Those that fail the same test twice in any three-year period will be cut off from federal aid. That amounts to a death sentence for many programs.”

The wire service noted that cosmetology schools could be the hardest hit.

If progressives were truly serious about holding educational institutions accountable for results, they would start with the nation’s struggling K-12 public schools before moving on to the system of higher education. But they have no interest in either. The fact that they seem inordinately focused on “for-profit” colleges instead exposes this for the ideological puffery that it is.

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