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Ed may resurrect gainful employment reporting

The US Department of Education may return to its gainful employment reporting requirements for all US degree-granting institutions. The current proposed regulation says:

β€œOn a website hosted by the [education] secretary (also where gainful employment warnings will be posted), students and prospective students will be able to access key information to help inform their decisions about where to enroll and what to study. This website may provide information on completion rates, median debt, loan repayment, and median earnings, as well as critical context for that information, such as the occupations for which the program prepares students, the length of the program, enrollment in the program, the cost of the program, and borrowing rates. Institutions will provide the information needed to access this website to prospective and enrolled students to help inform college choices.”

Ed first required gainful employment reporting in 2011. The Obama Administration wanted to provide students and prospective students with a cost-benefit analysis of specific post-secondary programs. Enforcement includes withdrawal of federal funding for programs that cannot prove their graduates can achieve gainful employment.

The new regulation would require all institutions (including those not subject to gainful employment regulations) to provide program-specific data on completion rates, costs, debt, and other relevant information.

The proposal is part of a process called negotiated rulemaking, which requires the Department of Education to reach agreement with representatives for parties the rules affect. That’s unlikely to happen in this case because for-profit colleges will not agree to the proposed rules. The last time Ed put gainful employment rules into effect, several large for-profit institutions declared bankruptcy.

Taxpayers, students deserve gainful employment reporting

If the process fails to achieve consensus, Ed may propose whatever rules it wants. (Affected parties could file lawsuits in federal court to delay or strike down the rules.) Should gainful employment reporting return (and that’s likely), WCC would once again report data on the employability of its graduates.

Although educational institutions may not like reporting gainful employment data, transparency is rarely bad. When an institution asks people to invest time and money, we deserve to know what we’re getting in return. Gainful employment data also make it more difficult to invest in an institution that spends educational funds on non-educational activities. (Like a health club, or a convention center, or “retail outlots.”) Gainful employment data tend to lay bare institutional administrations that cannot (or do not) focus on an institution’s educational mission.

I’m looking forward to the reinstatement of gainful employment reporting requirements. So should every taxpayer in Washtenaw County.

Photo Credit: innov8social, via Flickr