The for-profit schools don’t want to take responsibility for the circumstances of their graduates. And they won’t let the new gainful employment regulations go into effect without a fight. Within days of the posting they filed suit to block the regulations. They did the same thing when similar regulations were announced in 2012, so I expect the DOE wrote the new regulations carefully to withstand an expected legal challenge.
However, with a pro-business and anti-regulation majority in the House and Senate as a result of last week’s election, even regulations found to be legal might not be enforced. If the funds to track compliance aren’t in the budget, for instance, enforcement can’t happen.
Of course, if the schools and alphabets were committed to doing the right thing — producing the best possible graduates at the lowest possible cost to the students, regulations wouldn’t be needed, and wouldn’t threaten the schools even if they were adopted. I don’t expect that commitment from large businesses like Corinthian. I wish I could expect it from acupuncture schools. But most acupuncture schools seem to have little interest in what happens to their grads, and continue to present an unrealistic picture of life after graduation to potential students.
We’ve gotten to the point where even prominent conservatives acknowledge that the current system is a “bad deal for students and parents” and at least some are advocating for change. And it’s true that regulations, however carefully written, often have unintended negative consequences. All too often the well-off and powerful find ways to exploit loopholes and other tricks to avoid regulation, while smaller businesses find themselves significantly disadvantaged. (Consider what happened with the organic label.)
If the schools were on the hook for the money students borrowed no doubt things would be a lot different — from materials provided to prospective students, to the admissions process, to the education provided, to alumni support.
I don’t expect that will happen. And with the change in the political picture here in the US, who knows what will happen with the gainful employment regulations. For now, all acupuncturists can help the market work by helping prospective acupuncturists look past the pitch. Anyone entering the profession should do so with eyes wide open.
(Read this for more on how the November elections will impact the future of acupuncture and complementary medicine in the US.)
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