NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Kaplan Higher Education, a subsidiary of the Washington Post ( WPO), is implementing a program that it hopes will help deflect criticism over the preparedness of its students to pay back loans following graduation.

The "Kaplan Commitment" program allows prospective students to attend the first few class sessions of a new course to assess whether they want to enroll. This trial period is free and will let students decide if the course meets their needs before taking on the financial obligation.

Kaplan will also help students assess whether they are likely to do well in the course they choose.

"This innovative program reinforces Kaplan's genuine commitment to students, ensuring that they make an informed, educated decision when they enroll in Kaplan programs," said Jeffrey Conlon, the CEO of Kaplan Higher Education. "Kaplan wants its students to be completely confident that the choice to pursue higher education is the right one."

The program is a response to recent pressure from the federal government and its assertion that for-profit institutions are not preparing students to pay back their loans once they graduate.

In its press release, Kaplan said that the trial period program aims to "lower the risk that the federal government lends money unnecessarily to students with a low chance of success in the rigorous Kaplan learning environment."

Earlier this month a report from the U.S. Department of Education showed that the national default rate had risen to 7% in 2008, up from the 2007 rate of 6.7%. The default rate for for-profit schools saw the biggest gain, up to 11.6% from 11%.

The U.S. Department of Education has proposed regulations that would require for-profit institutions to better prepare students for "gainful employment" or they could risk losing access to federal student aid.

"Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use," said Duncan. "This is a disservice to students and taxpayers, and undermines the valuable work being done by the for-profit education industry as a whole."

The Department of Education will likely finalize the new rules by November 1, and they will go into effect on July 31, 2011.

-- Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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