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GE Reporting Was Only the First Step: More Deadlines Loom

By Joan Berkes, Policy & Federal Relations Staff

Schools have been struggling over the past year to provide accurate data to NSLDS about student enrollment in their gainful employment (GE) programs, which entailed a new reporting framework designed by the Department of Education (ED). That data will now be used to determine the continued Title IV eligibility of those GE programs. As a result, two more deadlines related to GE programs are approaching:

  • By December 31, schools must certify that each of their existing GE programs meets certain baseline eligibility criteria.
  • By 45 days after receipt, schools must submit corrections to the list of students comprising the cohort for which GE program eligibility metrics will be calculated (“completers list”).

As a reminder, most programs offered by a public or private nonprofit institution that do not lead to a degree are GE programs (for example, any undergraduate or graduate certificate program), and virtually all programs at for-profit schools are GE.

The upcoming deadlines reflect two complementary aspects of GE program eligibility:

  • A baseline measure (certification that a program meets basic eligibility criteria regarding state licensure, certification, and accreditation standards); and
  • An ongoing performance measure (the debt-to-earnings rates—D/E rates) that reflects the ability of students to repay debt incurred for the program as an indicator of gainful employment.

Changes to basic eligibility criteria after the initial certification due December 31 must be reported to ED as part of required notification procedures under the institutional eligibility regulations involving the e-App, ECAR, and PPA (600.10, 600.20 and 600.21). Performance assessments in the form of D/E rates will be an ongoing metric calculated by ED based on program completers under a new subpart Q of the general provisions regulations (668.401 – 668.415).

GE Program Certifications Due December 31

Schools must ensure that ED has an accurate and up-to-date listing of their GE programs, and must certify the basic eligibility of their Title IV-eligible GE programs within certain timeframes. The certification will ultimately become part of an institution’s program participation agreement (PPA), but for this first year of the requirement, schools must provide a transitional certification of eligibility for their existing GE programs. The deadline for submitting transitional certifications is December 31, 2015.

Guidance for submitting transitional certifications was issued in GE electronic announcement #54, posted June 11, 2015. Clarifications regarding programmatic accreditation were issued in GE electronic announcement #66, posted October 23, 2015.

ED has begun replying to schools that have submitted their certifications, indicating whether the certification is complete. Questions about the certification requirement may be submitted to [email protected].

In electronic announcement #54, ED provides one exception: No transitional certification is required if the institution has submitted an E-App that resulted, or will result, in a new PPA executed between July 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015.  Those PPAs will include the required certification, so no transitional certification will be required.

Whether part of the PPA or in a transitional certification, an institution’s president (or chancellor or CEO) must certify that each Title IV-eligible GE program that it offers:

  1. Is approved by a recognized accrediting agency or is otherwise included in the institution’s accreditation by its recognized accrediting agency or, if the institution is a public postsecondary vocational institution, is approved by a State agency recognized to approve such programs in lieu of accreditation;
  2. Is programmatically accredited if such accreditation is required by a Federal governmental entity or by a governmental entity in the State in which the institution is located or in which the institution is otherwise required to obtain State approval under 34 CFR 600.9; and
  3. In the State in which the institution is located or in which the institution is otherwise required to obtain State approval under 34 CFR 600.9, satisfies the applicable educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification requirements in that State so that a student who completes the program and seeks employment in that State qualifies to take any licensure or certification examination that is needed for the student to practice or find employment in an occupation that the program prepares students to enter.

According to the preamble to the final rule, if a program does not meet the certification requirements in any state where an institution is physically located, then the program as a whole would be considered deficient and could not be certified as Title IV-eligible.

Debt-to-Earnings Cohort Completer List

Schools should soon have access to the draft GE Completers List. This list identifies the students whose debt and earnings information will be used to calculate the D/E rates which affect program eligibility. Institutions will have 45 calendar days to ensure the list is accurate. According to a recent webinar conducted by ED, the list will be distributed through SAIG. Institutions must sign up for the Batch Gainful Employment Notification Package at the SAIG Enrollment Web site, https://fsawebenroll.ed.gov, to receive the GE Completers List through SAIG. Institutions that are not signed up for the batch package cannot receive the list through SAIG, but can request the GE Completers List Report on the NSLDSFAP Web site.

ED plans to post an electronic announcement shortly before the list is ready to go out. The current plan is to release lists over a weekend, with the 45-day school review period beginning the following Monday. The exact date of release is not yet known, although NASFAA and others have encouraged ED to consider typical school calendars. However, if the timing is such that the 45-day period encompasses a holiday or vacation period, schools will need to plan accordingly, since the 45 days will run through that period and will not likely be extended.

In reviewing the list of completers, schools should note that only completers who received Title IV aid should appear (ED cannot legally collect data on non-Title IV recipients). Because of school reporting requirements for NSLDS, only borrowers and Pell Grant recipients will appear on the list. However, schools may add students who received only Title IV funds other than loans or Pell Grant (for example, FWS-only recipients) during the 45-day period allotted to making corrections, subtractions, or additions to the list.

Students are excluded from the list if any of the following conditions apply:

  • One or more of the student’s Title IV loans were in a military-related deferment status at any time during the calendar year for which earnings are obtained.
  • One or more of the student’s Title IV loans are under consideration for, or have been approved for, a disability discharge.
  • The student was enrolled in any other eligible program at the institution or at another institution during the calendar year for which earnings are obtained.
  • For undergraduate GE programs, the student completed a higher credentialed undergraduate GE program at the institution subsequent to completing the program as of the end of the most recently completed award year prior to the calculation of the draft D/E rates.
  • For graduate GE programs, the student completed a higher credentialed graduate GE program at the institution subsequent to completing the program as of the end of the most recently completed award year prior to the calculation of the draft D/E rates.
  • The student died.

ED conducted two webinars last week on interpreting and challenging the completer list. Archived recordings and transcripts of ED webinars may be found on the Federal Student Aid Media Files page on IFAP. More guidance on the make-up of the list and how to correct it will be forthcoming.

 

Publication Date: 11/24/2015


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