Changes to Gainful Employment Regulation Delayed

The U.S. Department of Education missed the Novemeber 1st deadline to file changes to the gainful employment rule for 2019. As a result, changes will not go in to effect until July 2020 at the earliest.

 The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has missed the deadline to make changes current gainful employment (GE), which establish federal Title IV eligibility criteria for certificate and nondegree programs, as well as proprietary and vocational postsecondary institutions that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. In 2017, ED began a negotiated rulemaking process to make changes to the current regulations put in place by the Obama administration. During this process, negotiators did not reach a consensus on proposed changes and ED subsequently announce their intentions to rescind the regulation. However, because ED missed the November 1st deadline to file changes to the current rule, any changes will be delayed until July 2020 at the earliest.

 Though the regulations will stay in place as-is, the department is currently unable to collect students’ earnings data, due to an expired memorandum of understanding with the Social Security Administration to allow for information sharing. Without the SSA data, ED is unable to calculate average annual earnings for each cohort of students who participated in a GE program, necessary information to enforce the debt-to-earnings (D/E) accountability metric in the regulation.

Under the current rule, institutions are required to submit loan and earnings data for students in such programs to identify those where students are taking on overly burdensome levels of debt and ensure institutions are good stewards of federal Title IV funds. Failure to meet standards for the DE metric can result in program closure or loss of Title IV eligibility. No community colleges are currently at risk of losing eligibility.

Allison Beer is the Senior Policy Analyst for ACCT. She can be reached at

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