On Friday, June 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education released the Final Rule addressing Program Integrity: Gainful Employment. The rule will be published in the Federal Register. Consistent with the NPRM, the regulations rescind the GE regulations and remove them from subpart Q (gainful employment programs) of the Student Assistance and General Provisions in 34 CFR part 668. The regulatory action also rescinds subpart R (program level cohort default rates) of the Student Assistance and General Provisions in 34 CFR part 668. The regulations are effective July 1, 2020, however, the Secretary is exercising her authority to allow any entity subject to the regulations to choose early implementation. The early implementation date will be the date on which the rule is published in the Federal Register. This means that institutions, upon publication, no longer need to comply with the Gainful Employment regulations, including reporting data elements to the Department, publication of the GE disclosures, student warnings, and the GE template.
Debt to Earnings – The Department based this action to rescind the GE regulations on a number of findings, including research results that undermine the validity of using the regulations’ debt-to-earnings (D/E) rates measure to determine continuing eligibility for participation in the programs authorized by title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (title IV, HEA programs). These findings were not accurately interpreted during the development of the 2014 GE regulations, were published subsequent to the promulgation of those regulations, or were presented by committee members at negotiated rulemaking sessions.
Disclosures – The Department has also determined that the disclosure requirements included in the GE regulations are more burdensome than originally anticipated and that a troubling degree of inconsistency and potential error exists in job placement rates reported by GE programs that could mislead students in making an enrollment decision. Additionally, the Department has received consistent feedback from the community that the GE regulations were more burdensome than previously anticipated through the disclosure and reporting requirements that were promulgated in 2014.
College Scorecard – Finally, the Department has determined that in order to adequately inform student enrollment choices and create a framework that enables students, parents, and the public to hold institutions of higher education accountable, program-level outcomes data should be made available for all title IV-participating programs. The Department plans to publish these data using the College Scorecard so that students and parents can compare the institutions and programs available to them and make informed enrollment and borrowing choices. In an Electronic Announcement on May 21, 2019, the Department advised institutions that in mid-July 2019, they will calculate the data metrics for earnings and debt by field of study using data reported/updated by institutions as of July 10, 2019. They strongly encouraged institutions to ensure the accuracy of previously reported program-level enrollment data that was reported to NSLDS.
Under the rule, the Department further describes the preliminary plans for the expansion of the College Scorecard to include the following program-level data:
(1) program size;
(2) the median Federal student loan debt and the monthly payment associated with that debt based on a standard repayment period;
(3) the median Graduate PLUS loan debt and the monthly payment associated with that debt based on a standard repayment period;
(4) the median Parent PLUS loan debt and the monthly payment associated with that debt based on a standard repayment period; and
(5) student loan default and repayment rates.