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Institutions of higher education that receive Title IV funding
must properly disclose certain information concerning course
offerings that are or may be considered gainful employment programs
by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The deadline for
making these disclosures is January 31, 2013.
Gainful employment programs are those Title IV-eligible
offerings aimed at providing students with skills and credentials
to assist them in obtaining employment in a recognized occupation.
For publics and nonprofits, these are typically vocational or
certificate programs that do not lead to an associate's,
bachelor's, graduate or professional degree. Excluded are
programs for obtaining state teaching credentials as well as
preparatory courses that do not lead to a degree but are otherwise
necessary for enrollment in a degree-conferring program.
On June 24, 2011, the DOE issued an electronic announcement to
aid institutions in determining whether an educational program is a
gainful employment program. The DOE's guidance stated that:
Virtually all educational programs offered by for-profit
institutions are gainful employment programs,
regardless of whether the program leads to a degree.
All educational programs that lead to a degree awarded by a
public or private nonprofit institution are not
gainful employment programs.
Virtually all non-degree educational programs awarded by a
public or private nonprofit institution are
gainful employment programs.
Public Disclosure Requirements
On June 30, 2012, the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia vacated certain provisions of the DOE's
gainful employment program, including the DOE reporting
requirements, but left in place the public disclosure obligations.
SeeAssoc. of Private Sector Colleges and Univ.
(APSCU) v. Duncan, 11-cv-01314, (D.D.C. June 30, 2012).
As a result, to comply with the public disclosure requirements
of 34 C.F.R. §668.6(b) educational institutions must publish
all the following information by January 31:
the occupation that the gainful employment program prepares
students to enter, including the standard occupational
classification (SOC) code
the normal time within which a student can expect to complete
the rate students actual graduate on-time, including leaves of
the cost of tuition and fees, books, supplies, room and board
broken out as separate entries
the placement rate for students who complete the program, as
determined by states or accrediting agencies
the median debt incurred by students completing the program,
listed by type of loan and calculated based on data received from
This information must be provided to the public on the
institution's website and through promotional materials for the
institution's gainful employment programs, such as brochures,
pamphlets, advertisements and course catalogues. Importantly, the
information must be conveyed in a simple and meaningful manner,
which generally means it cannot be obscured or relegated to the
"fine print" and must be in a form accessible by
prospective students with disabilities. The DOE has released
templates in the past to aid institutions' disclosures related
to gainful employment programs and has indicated it will be
releasing a template in the future as well; however, because the
DOE is currently seeking reconsideration of the APSCU v.
Duncan decision, it is not expected that any template will be
released prior to the January 31, 2013, disclosure deadline.
Therefore, it is recommended that institutions review their
programs now and ensure they are in compliance with any disclosure
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Although the guidance is limited to K-12 schools, it is critical for all educational institutions that receive federal funding (colleges and universities included) to understand and comply with the guidance as soon as practicable.
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