The Department of Education’s rule would judge whether an institution can qualify for federal aid by mandating an average rate of repayment of student loans as measured against graduates’ income. Rather than applying to all higher learning, however, the regulation would apply primarily to private sector institutions. Non-degree, vocational programs at community colleges and other public institutions would be excluded, but not career-oriented degree programs at for-profit colleges.
The short-sightedness of such a metric is obvious; this arbitrary ratio may reflect bureaucrats’ prejudices, but not the quality and value of the education offered at schools. This will force private, career-focused institutions to evaluate potential students on their ability to pay back their loans, not on their needs or ability to succeed in their coursework. Thus, the rule unfairly targets populations who require assistance the most, further pushing higher education out of reach for underserved communities.
Similarly, it isolates students from proactive solutions to rising student debt, focusing instead on punishing institutions based on measures over which they have little control. Regulators serious about addressing students’ financial liabilities should be working with schools to inform and empower future graduates, rather than limiting options for learners.
Worse, the Department’s rule exacerbates the quixotic attitude that pervades the American zeitgeist on education today. The notion that one model – pricey four-year degrees, for instance – can address the needs of all higher education consumers ignores the elastic demands of the American economy.