President Obama wants to see the U.S. lead the world in the number of college graduates by 2020. But new regulations being proposed by the Department of Education would undermine that goal by presenting more obstacles to students seeking to attend the higher education institutions that work best for them. For-profit institutions, which would be most affected by the new regulations, serve a student population that has been underserved by traditional higher education. New regulations pertaining to how colleges are authorized could potentially further burden higher education institutions generally and lead to politicization of curriculum.

Krista Kafer writes in a new policy paper for the Centennial Institute:

The proposed regulations, if made final…will mandate a one-size-fits-all federal definition of state authorization…A state legislature or executive agency would then determine whether private colleges and universities will be able to enroll students with federal loans or grants. Such changes would be at best duplicative of the accreditation process – and at worst a pretext for government interference into the curriculum, research, and culture of private academic institutions.

“Moreover, these regulations imply that each institution of higher education will have to receive authorization from every state in which it has a presence as opposed to just its home state. Because states will likely interpret the regulatory language differently, institutions that operate in more than one state may be subjected to multiple, potentially conflicting requirements. While large institutions may be able to bear the cost of compliance, smaller institutions may find it too burdensome to serve students in more than one state.”

Tomorrow, the Heritage Foundation will host an event discussing the new regulations: Regulating the College Dream: Obstacles in the Way to Upward Mobility at 2:00 in Lehrman Auditorium. The event will feature Dr. Richard Vedder, a Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University and Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and Dr. Richard Bishirjian, President and Professor of Government at Yorktown University.

If President Obama wants to raise the number of college graduates in the U.S., as well as retrain our workforce for industries of the 21st century, for-profit colleges and universities should play a large part of bringing those goals to fruition.  Students should be able to choose what pathway to a higher degree is best for them, and the Department of Education should not throw additional obstacles in their paths.

Inez Feltscher is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: