Legislative Update: Congress in Recess, Continuing Resolution, For-Profit Hearing

Congress Recesses Until November

Despite returning to Washington just two weeks ago, members of Congress returned home yesterday to campaign in their states ahead of the mid-term elections. Congress is expected to return the week of November 15, then recess again for the week of Thanksgiving and be back the week of November 29, until done. Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin (IL), said this week that the lame duck session will focus on three items an omnibus spending package, a middle-income tax extension and a strategic arms control treaty with Russia.

Continuing Resolution to Keep Government Running

Because Congress did not pass any appropriations bills this session, they have passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government open and federal programs running at FY2010 levels until December 3, 2010. Their goal is to pass an omnibus appropriations bill before the session ends in December.

Senate Hearing on For-Profit Schools

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held the latest in a series of hearings on for-profit schools this week. Yesterday’s hearing, “The Federal Investment in For-Profit Education: Are Students Succeeding?,” focused on the success rates of students at these schools and the impact that attending these schools can have on personal debt. In his opening statement, Chairman Tom Harkin (IA) revealed the following statistics that his staff has compiled in a new report:

  • Out of 16 for-profit schools analyzed, 57% of the students who entered school between July ‘08 and June ‘09 have dropped out.
  • In total, these schools have lost 1.9 million students in the past three years.
  • More than 95% of students at two-year for-profit schools and 93% at four-year for-profit schools took out student loans in 2007, compared with 16.6% of students attending community colleges.

“We will be having yet another hearing in early December, and then be looking at sometime next year coming up with some kind of legislative changes,” Harkin said during the hearing.

Ranking Member Michael Enzi (WY) was quick to point out that many of these problems are not limited to proprietary schools, but exist across the higher education spectrum, including public and private 4-year colleges and universities and community colleges, and that for-profits should not be singled out.

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