Office of Planning and Budgeting

Department of Ed Finalizes (and Softens) Gainful Employment Rule

After much debate, public comment, intense lobbying, a lawsuit, and the threat of political action to block them, expansive new US Department of Education higher education regulations are set to go into effect on July 1st.  While the Department has made revisions to and provided implementation guidance for most of the new rules, it had several times delayed finalizing the most controversial regulation, known as Gainful Employment, which was formally published on June 2nd.

The rule  establishes thresholds for loan repayment rates and debt to income ratios for graduates of for-profit and non-degree career oriented programs, with the ability to cut off federal financial aid funding for entities that do not meet the standards, among other penalties. The final rule was significantly revised from earlier versions, including a delayed implementation year, altered criteria and formulas making it more difficult to find an institution in violation of the rule, and a host of other changes that are widely seen as having softened the rule in response to the pressure applied by the for-profit industry and its political supporters.

Although the gainful employment rule is limited in scope and does not currently apply to degree programs at traditional institutions, as we have previously stated, and both The Chronicle and Inside Higher Education are reporting, the regulation is a watershed moment with important implications for federal regulation of higher education into the future.

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