There’s a U.S. Department of Education Gainful Employment (GE) deadline coming up, and we’ve had lots of questions. The short answer to most of those questions is that colleges and universities should continue to follow current GEdisclosure requirements until Jan. 1, 2017, but colleges and universities need to implement new reportingrequirements by July 31, 2015. Still confused? Here are a primer and more resources:

Under the Department’s GE regulations, certain postsecondary educational programs must “lead to gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” To measure whether those programs lead to gainful employment, the Department’s October 2014 final GE rule requires higher education institutions to make certain disclosures and report various data. At a very high level, institutions risk Title IV program eligibility if they

  • Fail to meet disclosure and reporting requirements, or
  • Repeatedly report data that shows that their GE students leave with
    • A debt-to-income ratio greater than 12 percent and
    • Student loan payments that exceed 30 percent of discretionary income.

Does my institution have GE programs?

The Department recently reminded us about prior guidance defining which programs fall into the GE category. In short, at a public or nonprofit institution, degree programs are not GE programs. Non-degree programs at these schools are GE programs except:

  • Preparatory coursework necessary for enrollment in Title IV-eligible programs;
  • Approved “comprehensive transition programs” for students with intellectual disabilities;
  • Programs of at least two years in length designed to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program where no credential is conferred upon completion; and
  • Teacher certification programs where no credential is conferred.

“Embedded programs” at publics and nonprofits that provide both a degree and a credential (e.g., teacher programs that confer both a degree and a certificate) are not GE programs, provided a significant number of students actually earn the degree.

At proprietary (for-profit) institutions, all programs are GE programs except:

  • Preparatory coursework necessary for enrollment in Title IV-eligible programs;
  • Approved “comprehensive transition programs” for students with intellectual disabilities; and
  • A very few bachelor’s degree programs in liberal arts.

Notably, the GE rule does not apply to programs that do not participate in Title IV Federal Student Aid.

What do we need to do if we have GE programs?

Reporting

By July 31, colleges and universities must report data on all Title IV students enrolled in GE programs to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). Data must be reported from the 2008-2009 to the 2013-2014 award years; programs with required medical/dental residencies need to report for the 2007-2008 award year as well. Data for this 2014-2015 award year is due by Oct. 1, 2015.

Disclosures

Institutions with GE programs have been required to provide certain disclosures via the GE Disclosure Template since Jan. 31, 2014. The template includes information such as costs, debt, earnings, and completion and job-placement rates.

A disclosure for a GE program generated from the template must be prominently linked from (1) the GE program home page and (2) any other web page providing general, academic, or admissions information about the GE program. Whenever feasible, the disclosure (or a clearly identified link to it) also needs to appear in any printed, email, online media, or other solicitations that mention the specific GE program.

New disclosure rules kick in on Jan. 1, 2017; schools should keep following current rules until then. We expect further guidance on implementing those new rules before 2017.

Up in the air

An Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities lawsuit remains pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. Absent an authoritative ruling to the contrary, schools should continue to follow GE requirements.

More info

The Department goes out of its way to provide practical information on most topics surrounding GE rules, most prominently on its Gainful Employment Information webpage. The page features a link to an FAQs section covering a range of practical and technical topics. The Department also provided a solid explanation of new requirements at its annual Federal Student Aid conference and has posted videos of conference presentations outlining both reporting and disclosure obligations.

What this means for you

Determine whether your institution offers GE programs.  If so, comply with reporting requirements by July 31. Ensure your institution is complying with current disclosure rules and stand by for further guidance on updated disclosure requirements.