Department of Education: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Ms. Jessica Finkel
U.S. Department of Education
1990 K St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20006-8502
I am writing on behalf of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and our 20,000 members, most whom attended private schools to receive their training to become a professional court reporter. NCRA feels that recent actions by the U.S. Department of Education will unfairly group all private education institutions in with the “bad actors” in the industry.
On July 26, 2010, the Department issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would give the government a far-reaching and an unprecedented ability to regulate private institutions. If these changes are approved, the ability of students to receive adequate student aid if they choose to attend certain schools will be severely hindered.
The Department of Education is responding to a burden that many college graduates find themselves in following graduation: substantial and cumbersome student debt. It is important to note that this is not an issue solely tied to Career Colleges. Students at public universities, community colleges, and liberal arts institutions all face similar and even greater debt challenges than those presented by many Career Colleges.
While some schools need drastic changes to and oversight of their practices, it would be unjust to punish the entire private college enterprise because of a few isolated incidents. More often than not, private court reporting colleges already have stellar reputations and provide necessary training that public institutions cannot or will not provide. Court reporting is a specialty profession that demands an educational flexibility not available in most public institutions.
If the Department of Education approves the tenets of the goals of the NPRM, there will be a significant decrease in the number of court reporting and realtime graduates entering the workforce, effectively reversing an encouraging recent trend. Currently, the Department of Labor predicts that there will be a 25 percent growth in the court reporting field through 2016, a percentage that is faster than average.
During this severe economic recession, we should be encouraging individuals to enter a growing field with available jobs, as opposed to limiting economic opportunity. Private schools that offer court reporting programs are pushing graduates toward a lucrative career with expanding opportunities. Additionally, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, legislation requiring that all television programming in the top 25 media markets be closed captioned, has created new opportunities for court reporters and realtime providers. Attacking private schools that can train closed captioners will only further limit the number of individuals capable of properly captioning television for Americans who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
While the Department of Education issued the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with all of the right intentions, there may be a far greater unintentional impact than they sought. Speaking solely for private schools that offer court reporting programs, NCRA is concerned that the Department of Education is not distinguishing between the different types of career schools in this far-reaching proposal. By grouping all Career Colleges with those that engage in the worst practices, the Department of Education is ignoring the contributions made by graduates of Career Colleges with exceptional records.
During this economic downturn, the country needs to be promoting educational achievement, not disparaging it. And most importantly, we should be pushing individuals towards growing and lucrative careers. Our nation’s court reporters and captioners come largely from Career Colleges. Without them, we lose an actual person recording the proceedings during sensitive capital cases and we lose closed captioning services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Our country cannot afford to lose either of these integral services provided by court reporters and realtime providers. To that end, we urge the Department of Education to move forward carefully to ensure there is accountability partnered with opportunity.
Thank you for your time and allowing NCRA to comment on this important issue. If you have any questions or would like more information on how this NPRM could affect the court reporting profession please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Mark J. Golden, CAE
Executive Director and CEO