EdMedia Commons Archive

New Online Tool Helps Reporters Navigate `Gainful Employment’ Regulations For Higher Ed

The American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge Group have teamed up to create CollegeMeasures.org, an online database tracking whether career programs at colleges and other institutions are in compliance with new federal standards. 

The U.S. Department of Education is cracking down on career programs that can’t demonstrate enough graduates have found “gainful employment,” defined by a matrix of performance standards. For-profit, nonprofit, public and private institutions must all be in compliance or risk losing access to federal student aid funding.

“The metrics are the result of legislation aimed at ensuring that students understand their labor market returns relative to the costs of their higher education, “said Mark Schneider, an AIR vice president and former commissioner of the federal National Center for Education Statistics. “Our tool scans the wealth of statistical data released by the U.S. Department of Education and presents it in a handy, easy to understand way.” 

The purpose of the regulations is also to improve the chances that graduates of such career programs will eventually earn enough in their chosen field to pay back their student loans. Critics of the regulations — particularly the for-profit career college sector — say the regulations are too heavy handed and will cut off opportunities for thousands of students. 

Earlier this week, the Education Department released data on the first round of institutions to be evaluated against the new regulations, which take effect this fall (although programs will have until 2015 to correct deficiencies before losing eligibility for federal funding). 

The career programs will be required to meet federal standards on at least one of three metrics: At least 35 percent of former students must be repaying their loans; the estimated annual loan payment must not exceed 12 percent of a typical graduate’s total earnings; and the estimated annual loan payment must not exceed 30 percent of the individual’s discretionary income.

For the first-round of evaluations, the feds looked at 3,695 programs in 1,336 schools, representing 43 percent of students in career training programs. Of those, 5 percent – 193 programs at 93 individual schools – fell short on all three metrics. Just 35 percent of the programs satisfied all of the regulation requirements. Of the bottom 5 percent, all were programs at for-profit institutions. (For more on the new regulations and the for-profit sector’s response, read The Educated Reporter blog.)

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.