Education officials: Some for-profit schools don't make the grad - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Education officials: Some for-profit schools don't make the grade

According to the US Dept. of Education, about 1,400 programs won't pass new standards levied against for-profit schools. (Source: WAFF) According to the US Dept. of Education, about 1,400 programs won't pass new standards levied against for-profit schools. (Source: WAFF)

The United States Department of Education believes some for profit colleges, schools that serve non-traditional students, aren't making the grade. 

They've introduced new standards to weed out the underachievers in hopes it helps graduates pay off student loans. But what do the regulations mean for schools and students in North Alabama?

The government calls it necessary. For-profit colleges say it's an attack on education. 

But come July 1, new rules could change where non-traditional students attend schools. 

Under the Gainful Employment rules, programs will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of their discretionary income, or 8 percent of their total earnings. 

The U.S. Department of Education says the rules help assure that career colleges turn out graduates who can repay their student loans. If students can't, the schools could lose access to federal student-aid programs.

"None of us could have afforded to go there without student loans,” said Andrew Thompson. “It would devastate them."

Thompson graduated from Virginia College. That school is one of Alabama's few dozen that has a for-profit distinction. Thompson holds an associate's degree in applied science and respiratory therapy. 

He wanted to keep his full time job while furthering his education, and he says that's why he chose Virginia College instead of going with the more traditional route.

"I got just as good of an education. I passed my boards," said Thompson.

Thompson landed a job after graduation, but the government says for nearly a million students, that's not the case - and that's why they're calling for more rigorous standards through the gainful employment rule. 

According to the United States Department of Education, about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students won't pass the new standards. 

99 percent of those programs are offered by for-profit schools. 

See a list of for-profit schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Dunan released the following statement defending the change:

"Career colleges must be a stepping stone to the middle class. But too many hard-working students find themselves buried in debt with little to show for it. That is simply unacceptable. These regulations are a necessary step to ensure that colleges accepting federal funds protect students, cut costs and improve outcomes. We will continue to take action as needed."

Virginia College administration went on the offensive when we asked about the new precedent.

"There's been a lot of analysis that's looked at a lot of public schools or non-profit schools, and it's shown that if they were held to those same gainful employment regulations, a lot of programs wouldn't make it in those schools,” said Charles Trierweiler.

In fact, Virginia College has joined other for-profit schools in a lawsuit filed by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, or APSCU, against the government. 

It's the second time in a matter of years the schools have gone to court over the issue. In 2012, for-profit colleges succeeded in saying similar regulations were too subjective. Virginia College is hoping for a similar result.

Virginia College administration say if they're forced to implement the new rules, most of their programs would still be fine. It's a story we're going to continue to follow as it makes its way through the judicial system.

Copyright 2015 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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    Monday, February 9 2015 10:28 PM EST2015-02-10 03:28:12 GMT
    Monday, February 9 2015 10:28 PM EST2015-02-10 03:28:13 GMT
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