CECU: Postsecondary Career Education Faces Opportunities and Obligations in Coming Year
Written from Statements made by Steve Gunderson, President and CEO of CECU during the CECU Meeting of the Members
Opportunities and obligations: Two words that simply summarize the year for Career Education Colleges and Universities.
“Your opportunity is to help us establish a fair and stable environment in which you can pursue the real mission of teaching your students the career skills they need to get real jobs with real wages and a real chance in America’s middle class,” said CECU President and CEO Steve Gunderson.
“Your obligation is to educate and engage policymakers on these key issues so that we can make this happen.”
At the member meeting during the group’s Annual Convention & Expo in June, Gunderson reminded people where the organization was a year ago. “We began this year and we said we need to do everything we can to achieve a fair regulatory environment. All indications with gainful employment and borrower defense are (that) we’re going to be moving significantly in that direction.”
About 70 members participated in a task force that provided 40 recommendations to Capitol Hill, he said. “If you look at the proposal authored by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, our goals are all over that proposal,” Gunderson said. “The only thing that has not happened is Congress and the Senate moving on (the) higher ed (act), but … we’ve done the homework and we’re ready when they’re ready to move forward in modernizing that act.”
Opportunities in education and engagement will be key for the organization in the next year, particularly since many incumbents are not seeking reelection, which means there will be 50 new congressmen and women after the midterm elections.
“We need you as school leaders to reach out to those candidates and introduce them to who you are and what you do, and to get their support before the election when they need your support and want to be helpful,” he said.
He reminded members that they also need to reach out again after the election to begin much more serious conversations about policies and partnerships.
With its campaign to Create 5 Million Career Professionals over 10 years, CECU is able to give its members data that shows what schools are doing to meet the career professional skill demands in their communities. “That’s the message that you need to give your policymakers at both the state and the federal level,” Gunderson said.
While the sector faces regulatory and legislative issues, it’s vital that proprietary schools work with their policymakers. But Gunderson said you can’t work with the policymakers until you educate and engage them.
“Whether you are a member or not, you do not get a pass on the responsibility to engage with your members of Congress,” he said. “As soon as the borrower defense rule is published, we’re going to let you know what’s in it, and we’re going to ask you to lead an effort to get comments submitted from your school,” he said. “The Department has announced that they might take up three new rules sometime this year; we’ll keep you informed on what’s happening on them, and what we need to do moving forward. We’re going to need you to be engaged on the campaign, and we’re going to need you to be engaged with (the) Higher Education Reauthorization (Act) when it comes up…”
Gunderson said that while data is important, it is only as important as the independent research that provides it. “In 2015, when we began to see the downturn in our sector in terms of memberships and revenue, we cut out research,” he said. “I’m proud to tell you that the board has approved a budget that restores research and research line items.”
One of those research projects includes a Gallup survey to measure student satisfaction in the proprietary sector; the results will be released at the CEO Summit in November. A benefit of Congress moving slower on reauthorization, says Gunderson, “is it gives us a bit of time to do the research we need to do on risk sharing, a new idea that we hadn’t heard about until we got into reauthorization…” “We’re going to do independent research to develop a risk adjustment repayment rate that we can advance during the consideration of (the) higher education (bill),” Gunderson said.
In addition, CECU needs to rebuild its grassroots activism, if it is to make a difference in upcoming legislation.
“We know that (the) last time there was a rule on gainful employment, there were over 95,000 comments submitted. We believe that two-thirds of those comments were in support of the Obama rule,” he said.
t was a similar story for public comments on borrower defense, with two-thirds of the 55,000 comments in support of the rule.
“There are 2,825 proprietary schools participating in Title IV programs today,” Gunderson said. “So we did the general math and then we came up with a goal: We need every campus, member or non-member, to produce no less than 28 public comments on gainful employment, and 12 comments on borrower defense.” If every school does that, he said, the Education Department will get nearly 60,000 comments from the proprietary sector on gainful employment, and 30,000-35,000 comments on borrower defense.
“It’s critical,” Gunderson said. “Imagine if the administration advances these rules that balance the levels of regulation for us with those for everybody else in higher education. Imagine when the comments are all submitted, the press says by a 10-1 margin the comments oppose the administration’s new rule. That can’t happen. That’s why we need your help to develop this campaign and implement it in a way that becomes very successful.”
On another topic, Gunderson said it was also a good year for CECU organizationally since 17 new members joined. “It’s the first year that we actually brought in over 10 new members in a long, long time,” he said. “Likewise, the exhibit hall was sold out with over 24 new allied members.”
For more information on becoming a member of CECU visit https://www.career.org.