Mississippi consumer protection attorney tapped for education committee

Contact: Sharon Morris


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Mississippi consumer protection attorney tapped for education committee

(Jackson, Miss.) – Whitney Barkley, consumer protection staff attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice, has been selected to serve on the U.S. Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking committee on gainful employment. The committee is convened to establish benchmarks to ensure that all institutions of higher learning who receive federal grants and loans, including for-profit colleges, produce graduates who qualify for employment and can repay their student debt.

In her role as a consumer protection attorney, Barkley has been engaged in efforts to strengthen the standards under which for-profit colleges operate and ensure that students receive licenses and degrees that qualify them for employment in the marketplace.

“It is an honor to represent Mississippi and the Deep South in such an important conversation about access to education and gainful employment,” Barkley said. “I am delighted to take part in a process that will make a real difference in the lives of students across the nation by working to ensure that every college graduate has a marketable degree and manageable student loan debt. Our students work hard, and they deserve a system that is fair and transparent.”

Federal taxpayers are investing billions of dollars a year, $32 billion in the most recent year, in companies that operate for-profit colleges. Yet, more than half of the students who enrolled in in those colleges in 2008-9 left without a degree or diploma within a median of 4 months, according to a 2010 report issued by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. “We hope that one result from the rulemaking committee will be greater incentives for colleges to produce better outcomes for students and American taxpayers,” Barkley added.

The new committee will hold its first meeting in September. Barkley will participate in the negotiation of new rules. She will also represent the interests of low-income student borrowers in need of legal services. Barkley’s nomination was supported by a coalition that includes the National Consumer Law Center, National Legal Aid Defenders Association, Public Counsel, Public Advocate and legal aid organizations across the nation.