Negotiations on the latest, and critical, gainful employment (GE) regulations proposed by the Department of Education (ED) did not conclude this week as originally scheduled. The negotiators will reconvene sometime in December for a final session. If the negotiators fail to reach consensus, as is widely predicted, ED is free to propose any regulations it wants in the normal rulemaking process.
The three-day session that took place this week was dominated by discussion of the latest ED proposal, which was significantly different than the regulations it originally proposed in September. The most significant change came in the form of two additional metrics that GE programs—which include virtually all community college certificate programs that are currently eligible for federal student aid—must pass in order to remain eligible to participate in the Title IV student aid programs. In addition to the two debt-to-earnings metrics contained in the original draft (which were modified as well), the new draft also contains a program-level cohort default rate and a loan portfolio repayment rate. Failure on any one of the metrics could lead to Title IV ineligibility for a GE program. The proposed regulations also contain extensive reporting and disclosure requirements and extremely troubling provisions on program approval and borrower relief.
If enacted in their current form, the pCDR and loan repayment metrics could prove substantially more problematic for community colleges than the DTE metric. However, the effect of these new metrics is not known at this point because ED did not provide impact estimates, as they have done in the past. The lack of this data was a significant sticking point in the negotiations and one of the reasons why there will be another negotiation session in December, presumably with this data in hand.
Fortunately, community colleges are well represented in the negotiations, and our views are being heard if not always accommodated. We will keep you informed as this process continues.
For more advocacy-related news, view the November 22 issue of Washington Watch, AACC's digital federal policy update.