U.S. Department of Education Releases Draft New Gainful Employment, Financial Responsibility, Administrative Capability, and Ability to Benefit Proposed Rules – 30 Day Public Comment Period

On May 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released to the public the text of proposed regulations to establish a new iteration of a Gainful Employment (GE) rule, which would terminate access to Federal financial aid for career training programs that leave graduates with unaffordable debt burdens or with earnings that are no higher than workers without any education beyond high school.

The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register on May 19, 2023. The public may submit comments on the proposed rule through the Regulations.gov website for 30 days. The Department expects to finalize the rules later this year. Under the master calendar requirements of the Higher Education Act, rules finalized by November 1, 2023, will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

The proposed GE rule applies to all Title IV eligible programs offered by proprietary (for-profit) institutions of higher education and less than 2 year (certificate) programs offered by public and private non-profit institutions. Institutions offering such programs should closely analyze the proposed rule and submit public comments within the 30 day open comment period. We will be publishing a more detailed analysis of key components of the rule in the near future.

The Department also included proposed changes to three other regulatory areas:

  • Financial Responsibility, which includes proposals to make it easier for the Department to secure upfront financial protection when colleges start to exhibit signs of financial struggle, such as when an institution incurs significant debts or liabilities from a lawsuit or is at risk of losing access to Federal financial aid programs.
  • Administrative Capability, which includes proposals to increase requirements for colleges to provide adequate career services and clearer financial aid information, and to limit the employment of individuals with a past history of risky behavior or misconduct related to the Federal financial aid programs.
  • Certification Procedures, which includes proposals to make it easier for the Department to incorporate stronger safeguards into its written agreements with institutions for participating in Federal financial aid programs. These proposals also protect students by allowing the Department to require teach-out plans or agreements when a college is at risk of closure.

Finally, the regulations contain consensus language agreed to during negotiated rulemaking in Spring 2022 that will revise Ability to Benefit rules. These are provisions related to how students without a high school diploma may access Federal aid. In particular, the regulations would provide a more streamlined process for States to approve postsecondary opportunities for these students.

View an unofficial copy of proposed regulations here. A fact sheet on the GE and transparency parts of the rules can be found here and a fact sheet on the other provisions in the regulatory package are here. The Department is also releasing a version of the data that was used to model the effects of the proposed gainful employment and financial transparency rules in the Regulatory Impact Analysis, which can be found on this page.

Department of Education Releases Proposed Rules on Accountability for Certificate and For-Profit Programs and Transparency into Unaffordable Student Debt | U.S. Department of Education

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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