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Focus on Regulation

U.S. Department of Education Further Delays Gainful Employment Disclosures

On June 18 the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it intends to allow institutions additional time—until July 1, 2019—to comply with certain disclosure requirements of ED’s “gainful employment” (GE) regulations.  ED will accept comments on the proposed delay until July 18.  As ED is engaged in a rulemaking process to develop proposed regulations that would replace the existing GE regulations, it is uncertain whether institutions will ever be required to comply with these disclosure requirements.

Under the provisions that ED has delayed (34 CFR 668.412(d) and (e)), an institution subject to the GE rules would be required to include GE program disclosures, in the form of a template prescribed by ED or a link to it, in promotional materials made available to prospective students and to distribute a copy of the disclosure template directly to prospective students before they sign an enrollment agreement, complete registration, or make a financial commitment to the institution.  The disclosure template includes 16 elements for each GE program,  including (1) the primary occupations that the program prepares students to enter, (2) the program’s completion and withdrawal rates, (3) the length of the program, (4) the number of clock or credit hours in the program, (5) the number of students in the program, (6) the loan repayment rate for students in the program, (7) the total cost of the program, (8) the placement rate for the program, (9) the percentage of students who received a federal or private education loan for the program, (10) the median loan debt for the program, (11) the mean or median earnings for the program, (12) the cohort default rate for the program, (13) the annual earnings rate for the program, (14) the program’s fulfillment of requirements for professional licensure or certification, (15) the program’s programmatic accreditation, if any; and (16) a link to ED’s College Navigator website.

This announcement is not the first time that ED has delayed the implementation of these provisions: although April 3, 2017 was initially established as the compliance deadline, ED previously extended the deadline until July 1, 2017, and then further extended the deadline until July 1, 2018.

ED has initiated a rulemaking process to review and revise the GE regulations. Three sessions of negotiated rulemaking were held from December 2017 to March 2018, but the committee did not reach consensus.  As a result ED is permitted to develop its own proposal to replace the existing GE regulations.  As justification for further delay of the disclosure requirements, ED explained that it “continues to evaluate the efficacy of these disclosures to students, including the manner in which the GE regulations would require institutions to make these disclosures, and the burden associated with the implementation of these requirements.”  ED “continues to review the utility of these requirements in connection with the proposed rulemaking”.  In the meantime, certain other GE disclosure requirements (34 CFR 668.412(a), (b), and (c)) – which require institutions to post the GE program disclosure template on their websites and to update the template annually – remain in effect.