At a recent conference on financial aid, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that every school should help its students graduate with high-quality career prospects and little debt.
Students should be equipped, she added, with information that allows them to be responsible consumers. "They need to have the best possible tools, data, advice and support," DeVos said, at the Georgia World Congress Center in late November.
Yet at another session at the same conference, Cynthia Hammond, a top Education Department official, said the agency wouldn't be releasing student debt information on certain programs. "We will not be doing another round of debt-to-earnings rates at this time," Hammond said to the audience.
Career education programs, including most for-profit colleges, are required to disclose debt and earnings data to prospective and current students, as part of the so-called gainful employment regulation. Under the rule, poor-performing programs are at risk of losing their federal funding.
The regulation is intended to provide students, "with the best information possible when they're making one of the biggest investments they're ever going to make," said Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at Third Way, a think tank in Washington.
The Education Department under DeVos has proposed eliminating the rule. Yet the soonest any such change could go into effect is July 2020, and so advocates were alarmed by Hammond's comments at the conference. The department has already pushed back the date that schools need to publicly share their gainful employment information.
Critics of DeVos say the delays in data disclosure are another example of her siding with the for-profit industry.