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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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Foxx Statement: Hearing on "The Gainful Employment Regulation: Limiting Job Growth and Student Choice"
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Chairman Jordan. I appreciate the opportunity to hold a joint hearing with the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight, and Government Spending, and I would like to thank our witnesses and guests for joining us today.

Supporting freedom of choice in higher education should be a priority for all Members of Congress. Postsecondary education opens doors for greater job opportunities and the chance for a more stable career path, both of which are critical for Americans struggling to make ends meet and support their families in this tough economy. Unfortunately, the administration’s efforts to impose the widely criticized gainful employment regulation on proprietary colleges could severely limit education and job training opportunities for millions of students and inhibit local economic development in communities across the country.

Proprietary colleges are unique institutions with the flexibility to offer courses in formats that meet the demands of the student population and in subjects based on the needs of the local community. The majority of students attending a proprietary institution are what we commonly refer to as “non-traditional students,” meaning they are not attending college right after graduating from high school. In fact, forty-eight percent of students enrolled in a two-year proprietary program and 72 percent of four-year program students are 25 years of age or older.

Many of these students have families, full-time jobs, or seek job training for career opportunities in a new field. The option to take courses in the evenings, on the weekends, at an accelerated pace, or even online can be a valuable alternative for students who may otherwise be unable to pursue postsecondary education.    

Proprietary colleges serve several fast-growing industry sectors, including the computer-data processing and health care fields. From 2008 to 2009, for example, 79 percent of the allied health and medical assisting workforce and 11 percent of nurses were educated at proprietary colleges.

Students who choose to attend proprietary institutions often benefit from the institution’s close working relationship with local business owners and hiring managers, which helps the schools better develop programs that meet the needs of the local workforce.

In a hearing held by the Education and the Workforce Committee earlier this year, a hiring supervisor with Orbital Sciences Corporation in Arizona praised a local proprietary institution’s efforts to gain input from business leaders that would better prepare students to compete in the job market.

“Private postsecondary educational institutions actively practice continuous improvement through the use of industry advisory committees,” the witness said. “These advisory committees allow industry leaders the opportunity to provide constructive feedback and recommendations for curriculum enhancement based on graduate performance in the industry. This approach has an immediate benefit for employers as new graduates enter the industry armed with the skills and knowledge to solve real issues in the workplace.”

The reams of red tape and reporting requirements established by the Department of Education’s gainful employment regulation could make it more difficult for proprietary schools to create the career training programs valued by local businesses. In turn, this could force businesses to outsource job opportunities to find skilled candidates, or even relocate to another part of the country.

The new unemployment numbers released by the Department of Labor this morning show private sector job growth remains sluggish. More than 14 million Americans are out of work, and the unemployment rate continues to hover above 9 percent.  Our economy added only 18,000 jobs in June. That is simply unacceptable. It is absolutely critical Congress do everything in its power to rein in harmful regulations that hamper economic growth and job creation – and we must start by putting an end to the misguided gainful employment regulation.

I hope today’s hearing will shed additional light on the serious ramifications this regulation could have on students, employers, job creation, and the economy as a whole. I look forward to our witness testimony, and with that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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