The U.S. Department of Education on Monday distributed proposals for rewriting the gainful-employment rule, which the Trump administration halted last summer. The department's do-over on the vocational education rule, which applies to for-profit college programs and to nondegree programs at nonprofit colleges, continues with a negotiated rule-making session next week.
The feds' proposal would expand gainful employment to all academic programs that are eligible for federal aid. But, as many observers expected, the regulations would lose their teeth -- low-performing programs would no longer face the possibility of being tagged "failing" and lose federal aid eligibility because of their graduates' debt-to-earning ratio, as was the case under the Obama administration's version of gainful employment.
"We propose to change the focus of these regulations from programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation to all 'educational programs,'" the department said in one of its issue papers. "We propose to amend section 668.403 so that programs are no longer considered to be 'passing' or 'failing' based on their debt-to-earnings rates. Instead, we propose to refer to programs as 'acceptable' if they meet the established standards, and 'low-performing' if they do not meet the established standards."
Under the proposal, low-performing programs would be required to notify students about graduates' ability to pay back their loans. But sanctions would not go beyond information disclosure requirements.