By Alexander Shedd, Staff Writer
Tom Perriello, former 2017 Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia and current CEO of WinVirginia, a political action group directed towards supporting Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates in Virginia, held a conference call on Wednesday, August 30.
Perriello met with University of Richmond Young Democrats President Shannon Kane, and Norfolk State University Young Democrats President Emeritus Monique Gatling to discuss the higher education agendas of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie.
The call was publicized by the campaign of Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, which claims that “[DeVos] and Gillespie have embraced radical higher-ed policies that will make higher education more expensive, slash funding for our colleges and universities, and allow the for-profit college industries to take advantage of Virginia’s students.”
According to a New York Times article by Kevin Carey published on June 30, 2017, one of DeVos’s primary education goals is to “dismantle a set of Obama-era policies devised to protect students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges.”
A “for-profit college” refers to a college or university run by a private corporation that seeks to operate like a business; some of the country’s largest include the University of Phoenix and the DeVry Education Group.
NPR’s Anya Kamenetz reported on June 17, 2017 that DeVos’s Department of Education would be blocking a rule implemented by the Obama administration which was put in place to “[clarify] how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college.”
The department also rolled back another Obama-era rule known as “gainful employment,” which “[evaluated colleges and universities] based on how many graduates are able to payback their loans.” The logic behind the rule was that “if too many students end up with low incomes and high debt, the program is not offering good value for money,” Kamenetz said.
In an official statement on the rollbacks, Betsy DeVos said that the Obama administration’s previous rulemaking “missed an opportunity to get it right. The result is a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools, and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs.”
Although Ed Gillespie’s campaign website does not invoke the term “for-profit college,” it does demonstrate a dedication to enacting legislation that would assist students in getting a “high quality technical education” through the use of asking “the private sector and partners who require skilled technicians [to] help develop curriculum along with professional educators.” His website statements also include “[working with] local educators, institutions of higher education and businesses to reform and better align our workforce development system with the demands of the marketplace of today and the future.”
These statements do not necessarily promote for-profit colleges, but Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello believe that potential legislation from a Gillespie administration that would follow through on these promises may contain protections or promotions of for-profit institutions, which, according to Northam’s campaign website, there are over forty of in the state of Virginia “enrolling [total] more than 60,000 Virginians.”
While statements on Ralph Northam’s campaign website also advocate “working with both businesses and community colleges to ensure there is a local training option for available job,” his official statements also include a plan to set up a “watchdog… related to for-profit colleges [including] consumer complaints, annual certification renewals and accreditation reports, loan default rates, graduation rates and average wages for graduates for select years post-graduation.” Gillespie’s statements do not include any similar plan.