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NSLDN Challenges Information Quality in the Department of Education’s Proposed 2018 "GE" Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 5, 2018) – A recent regulatory proposal from the United States Department of Education is illegally riddled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims, according to a new petition filed today by the National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN). NSLDN is calling on the Department to immediately retract its proposed rule until it is able to comply with federal law.

In a Petition for Correction and Disclosure filed under the Information Quality Act (IQA), NSLDN asserts that the Department’s proposed rescission of the Gainful Employment (GE) rule contains numerous factual claims that are unsupported by sources, do not stand for the proposition cited, or otherwise fail to explain the methodology used.

Under the IQA, the Department—like all federal agencies—has an obligation to only publish information that is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. By including unsourced factual assertions or otherwise relying upon data that is not peer-reviewed or evidence-based, the Department’s proposed rule fails to comply with this fundamental obligation.

“It is a commonsense requirement that federal government agencies only publish information supported by fact. Even a cursory review of the Department’s proposed rescission of the Gainful Employment regulation demonstrates the extent to which the Department has ignored that obligation,” said NSLDN Counsel Robyn Bitner. “If the Department is going to propose eliminating an entire rule aimed at protecting students and taxpayers, it should at least rely upon high-quality information before doing so.”

Among the most glaring factual inaccuracies in the Department’s proposed rule is a citation to a 2008 paper regarding manageable student debt levels. According to the Department, the study supports its proposed rescission of the GE rule. In a recent blog post, however, one of the authors of the study, Sandy Baum, makes clear that “the Department of Education has misrepresented [her] research,” which she argues actually “presents evidence that would support making the GE rules stronger.”

NSLDN’s Petition seeks an immediate rescission of the proposed rule. Under the Department’s IQA guidelines, the Department must respond to NSLDN’s Petition within 60 calendar days. The Department’s response is then appealable to the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Management.

The Petition is available here.

UPDATE: On July 31, 2019, Student Defense submitted an Appeal of the Department's decision on the IQA challenge.

UPDATE: On May 18, 2021, the Department purported to deny the Appeal.