The Executive Pen May Be Mighty But Congress Has The Sword

During the first 100 days of his new administration, President Donald Trump issued a host of executive orders, boldly delivering on his promise to roll back many government regulations which hampered businesses and delayed our nation’s economic recovery. The president rightly believes the regulations imposed on a variety of businesses offer no real measure of success. There’s no measurable way to determine if many of these new rules and mandates actually benefit anyone or improve our quality of life.

The Obama years represented the classic Washington, D.C., bureaucratic mindset: “Let’s pass hundreds of regulations with no way to measure success and we’ll worry about the consequences later.”

Private college education is a prime example of a vital service industry struggling to survive under dozens of new, often needless regulations. Former President Barack Obama and his Department of Education imposed crippling regulations that forced more than 750 private college campuses to shutter their doors. Obama’s education bureaucrats wrongly believed that career-oriented schools offering degrees in health care, computer networking, technology, law enforcement, etc., offered limited value. Obama’s campaign against private colleges left tens of thousands of students, including veterans, Latinos, African-Americans and women, with limited educational options.

Trump is currently working with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to temporarily roll back regulations that arguably created the education version of Obamacare, but there’s only so far they can go administratively. Our representatives in Congress need to pass laws that offer permanent protections for private, nonprofit schools.

One example of the assault on private colleges comes in the form of what’s known as the “Borrower Defense to Repayment” rule, which was created to allow students to walk away from their loans if they believed they were defrauded. One former Education official who actually worked on this rule said schools not even remotely guilty of fraud might be arbitrarily judged guilty by the Education Department. The rule also gives the ED broad power in condemning a college without arbitration. In addition, we see a future floodgate of litigation when it becomes known that any student who claims fraud against his college can walk away from his or her loan obligations.

The University “Composite Score” rating is another example of how the past administration was targeting private colleges by arbitrarily labeling many schools as “not financially responsible.” This negative “rating” poses a threat to a school’s effort to attract students and receive Title IV funding. In addition, schools with low scores are subjected to monitoring requirements by government bureaucrats who have little knowledge of University operations. Many schools are required to post letters of credit equaling up to 50 percent of their Title IV funding — a senseless mandate most schools cannot meet.

The “State Authorization” rule is another regulation Congress should end. This mandate requires an institution to be authorized in any state where it has physical location and in any other state where the school provides long-distance education. With more students getting a portion of their education online, this requirement is burdensome and unnecessary. The rule has created an unmanageable regulatory mess, with every state now required to have a still-undefined oversight agency to act upon potential complaints. Part of the regulation was struck down in federal court in 2011, but other elements of this egregious regulation remain intact.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) introduced a bill designed to eliminate unnecessary federal regulations restricting choice and opportunity in higher education. The Foxx Bill targets the state authorization regulation and another burdensome rule, the “Gainful Employment” regulation, which prohibits students who have government loans access to various education programs that don’t meet arbitrary debt-to-earnings requirements for graduates within three years. The gainful employment rule punishes students pursuing careers in the arts, technology or electrical engineering — careers that require apprentice programs lasting much longer than three years or careers that naturally take longer than three years to monetize.

Obama and many of the education elites in Washington, D.C., were profoundly disappointed when Hillary Clinton lost the election as they were ready to continue their campaign against private colleges and universities. Their systematic campaign to dismantle schools offering career-oriented education may have lost much of its political clout, but it’s far from over.

Congress must make education regulatory reform a high priority and pass legislation that permanently repeals many of these onerous rules. Our nation needs skilled workers who enter the job market properly educated and ready for work. Private, nonprofit colleges and universities fill an important void in our education system and must be allowed to operate under commonsense regulations and not become unwarranted targets.

Active duty military, veterans, women, and minority students regularly attend these schools to further their education and land good-paying jobs. The new administration and Congress should work to permanently remove many of the bureaucratic barriers which are preventing tens of thousands of students from achieving their education and career goals.


Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring USA, Inc., a nonprofit public policy organization committed to promoting constitutional government, free enterprise and traditional values. Let Freedom Ring’s primary current project is Sunset the Tax Code. Hanna was a Chester County commissioner (1995-2003) and has appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews”; Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” “The Glenn Beck Show,” “Special Report,” and “Fox & Friends.”

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