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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Department of Education Needs to Answer Congressional Inquiry

When business owners receive a letter or inquiry from the federal government, they are required to comply with the information request. The federal government should do the same when Congress requests information, or makes a specific request.

On November 17th, in a joint letter to Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) requested an internal investigation as to whether the organizational protocols adopted for negotiated rulemaking were followed by both non-federal negotiators and Department staff. In the letter, the Senators assert that publicly available documents show that the Department of Education may have leaked the proposed “gainful employment” rules to short sellers and others that stand to benefit from the collapse of the industry.

To date, nothing has been heard from the Department of Education in response to the letter from Senators Burr and Coburn. How can the Department stand by and allow even the appearance of impropriety to permeate? Publicly available documents raised enough concern to urge a letter from Members of the Senate calling for an investigation. To that end, the Department of Education has remained silent and failed to make the necessary inquiries into the events that led up to the issuance of the proposed regulations regarding the gainful employment rule.

In addition to steps taken by Senators Burr and Coburn, recent efforts by Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman-elect of the Committee on Education and Labor, should be applauded. In a December 10 Bloomberg article, Kline said he would not support legislation from Senator Harkin’s HELP committee. Kline argues that the proposed regulation in its current form is unnecessarily harmful to for-profit colleges and their students, as the arbitrary proposals would limit higher education options for students.
We hope that before the Department of Education issues the rule as expected in January, it has done its due diligence by issuing an internal audit into possible wrongdoings that threaten the integrity of the programs it administers.

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO

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