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Federal regulators are threatening to crack down on for-profit schools that are eager to take students' cash, but aren't necessarily coming through with lucrative paying gigs upon graduation. Those for-profit schools include a number of culinary schools around the country that are increasingly taking the heat. Several are embroiled in actual lawsuits.
According to Politico, the Department of Education is expected to set what many call "gainful employment" rules as early as this month. That move could severely limit the ability of for-profit schools to access federally-backed student loans. That means cooking schools like Le Cordon Bleu, Art Institute of Houston, Western Culinary Institute and dozens more, might be facing their own elimination challenge as they face increasing pressure to prove their students are able to secure jobs upon graduation, and have the ability to pay back student loans that can quickly reach $50,000.
Attorney Michael Louis Kelly, who is suing Career Education Corp. (the parent company of Le Cordon Bleu) on behalf of California students, told NPR that the school made unrealistic promises.
"The model doesn't work," Kelly told NPR. "You can't got to school, accumulate $30-, $40- or $50,000 in debt and then go into an industry where you're going to have to start out at $8 or $12 an hour."
"Top Chef" contestant Tiffany Derry threw her whisk into the fight. In an essay for The Hill, she argues that the proposed changes will adversely affect minority and low-income students.
"The proposed regulation is going to hurt students who need help the most: students who are considered at-risk, minority and low-income or older students who may be raising a family by themselves. The rule erroneously points to debt-to-income ratios and repayment rates as measure to determine whether or not students who attend a program are eligible to receive financial assistance," she writes.
The "Top Chef" star also happens to be a graduate of the for-profit Art Institute of Houston, and returned to teach there, according to the Dallas Observer.
Campus Progress writer Kay Steiger challenges Derry's position and says that an important part of the argument is the loan pay-back rate.
"According to the Department of Education, the Art Institute of Houston's federal loan repayment rate is 37 percent -- not enough to instantly disqualify it from receiving federal student aid, but low enough to put the school in the 'restricted' category if its debt-to-income ratio is also bad," writes Steiger.
What do you think? Has tuition at culinary schools reached a boiling point? Share your thoughts in our comments section.
Read about the nation's first full-time high school culinary program at The Huffington Post.