NYLAG attorney Eileen Connor has been selected to represent legal aid organizations in a round of negotiated rulemaking before the U.S. Department of Education. Negotiated rulemaking brings together representatives from government and diverse interest groups to negotiate and reach a consensus on the terms of a proposed administrative rule.

The subject of the rulemaking in this case is “gainful employment,” a regulation aimed at holding for-profit secondary schools accountable for the quality of their programs by monitoring the job outcomes of their students. The original gainful-employment rule, which a federal judge struck down last summer, would have cut off federal student aid to for-profit schools that did not meet minimum standards based on debt-to-income ratio and loan repayment rates for former students. For-profit schools are opposed to a gainful-employment rule.

“We are so pleased that Eileen will represent the interests of the clients we serve who have been victimized by the for-profit school industry,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG President and Attorney-in-Charge. “And we applaud the administration for pursuing standards that will improve the oversight of these schools, which make money from government-guaranteed student loans yet offer little to their students but crushing debt.”

Ms. Connor is a senior attorney with NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit, which earlier this year launched a For-Profit Schools Project to investigate the predatory practices of for-profit post-secondary schools. NYLAG attorneys have spoken with many individuals who are having their federal income tax refunds seized and who are being hounded by debt collectors over student loans, yet are unable to find a job in the field in which they studied. NYLAG is exploring ways to improve the oversight of for-profit schools and to provide systemic relief from student loan debts for former students.

Students who attend for-profit colleges have higher unemployment rates and lower earnings than do comparable students from other types of colleges. The student population enrolled in for-profit schools is older, lower-income, and higher-borrowing than at non-profit or public schools. A student at a for-profit school is more likely to be foreign-born, of color, and supporting dependents than a student at a non-profit or public school. New York City alone is home to approximately 300 for-profit schools, where enrollment has increased by over 200 percent in the last decade.

Ms. Connor is one of 15 negotiators and 14 alternates selected by the Department of Education. The committee includes students, consumer advocates, state officials, school administrators, business leaders, accreditors, and an Education Department official. Negotiations are set to begin in September.