The Department of Education (ED) made changes to the College Scorecard Wednesday to allow students to compare potential earnings and student loan debt by program, in addition to showcasing data on an institutional level. These changes follow an Executive Order (EO) from the Trump administration and come months after ED rescinded the gainful employment (GE) regulations, which focused on programmatic outcomes, and announced plans to update its existing online tool.
“For the first time ever, students will now have access to information on the median earnings and median debt of a school's graduates, based on their chosen field of study,” ED said in a statement, adding that the data it previously offered by institution “is a fairly meaningless metric given the diversity of programs and outcomes at any given single school.
The Trump administration has been pushing for program-level data on student debt and earnings, and in its first higher education-related EO last march, directed ED to update the College Scorecard because “institutions should be transparent about the average earnings and loan repayment rates of former students who received Federal student aid.” The administration added that “the federal government should make this information readily accessible to the public and to prospective students and their families.” In response, ED published some program-level data in May, but cautioned that it was “considered preliminary and future improved versions will be calculated after institutions have time to adjust their historical enrollment data.”
In the announcement Thursday, ED wrote that the improved changes now made to the College Scorecard mean that “a student interested in studying engineering can now compare outcomes, such as first-year earnings and student loan debt, among engineering programs within an institution and among those offered at other schools. Plus, ED wrote that “students will be able to see if a career and technical education program at a two-year institution might generate a higher return on investment than a more traditional program at a four-year institution.”
The College Scorecard has also been updated to include data on more learners, such as transfer and part-time students, and to present graduation rates for full-time, part-time, first-time, and transfer students.
“With the click of a button, users can see the likelihood of graduation for students like them,” ED wrote.
While the GE regulations were in place, non-degree-granting programs’ eligibility for Title IV aid was tied to their students’ ability to repay their loan debt, or their debt-to-earnings ratios. The rules were highly criticized since they were first introduced almost a decade ago — while some said they unfairly targeted for-profit institutions and that they should be applied to all institutions, others worried that the regulations were overly burdensome.
Following months of negotiated rulemaking sessions aimed at rewriting the regulations and discussions surrounding which types of programs they should target and what measures ED should use to judge a program’s success, ED decided to strike them entirely. In its final rule, published in July, ED wrote that it “by expanding the [College] Scorecard to include program-level data, all students could make informed enrollment and borrowing decisions.”
The new rule does not take effect until July 1, 2020; however ED has allowed for early implementation, at institutions' discretion.
Publication Date: 11/21/2019