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Statement

Return of Gainful Employment Regs Is a Step Toward Equity for Learners

October 6, 2023

At a Glance

JFF welcomes the Department of Education’s move to reinstate and update the gainful employment rules, but policymakers should remain vigilant about assessing the quality of education and training programs that receive federal aid.

Contributors
Ethan Pollack Senior Director
Practices & Centers

In response to the U.S. Department of Education’s finalization of the Gainful Employment regulations, JFF issues the following statement:

Now more than ever, the country needs an expanded and diverse set of high-quality postsecondary pathways that meet the ever-changing talent needs of our evolving economy and help workers and learners obtain quality jobs and advance economically.

The federal government plays a key role in ensuring equitable access and strong outcomes for students enrolled in all types of programs, including longer-term degree programs and nondegree career-oriented programs and other sub-baccalaureate opportunities. For that reason, Jobs for the Future (JFF) is pleased that the U.S. Department of Education reinstated and updated the Gainful Employment (GE) regulations, which will help ensure the transparency of the student outcomes of all postsecondary education providers that receive federal financial aid and heighten accountability for nondegree career-oriented programs.

The newly updated regulations will require all postsecondary education providers receiving federal financial aid, both public and private, to report program outcomes that fail to meet the new GE student debt and earnings metrics, with for-profit degree programs and all nondegree career programs subject to penalties. This approach will broaden accountability across the entire postsecondary field by providing workers and learners and their families with key information as they make critical choices about education and career decisions. It also helps ensure that people who are seeking education and training opportunities don’t fall victim to bad actors.

The stakes are high for both learners and the U.S. economy. Federal policymakers—including members of Congress—should continue to hold programs accountable if they lead to poor outcomes for students, and they should highlight those that lead to economic advancement.

JFF believes that the new regulations—which are scheduled to take effect during the summer of 2024—are a good step forward in ensuring that learners enrolled in postsecondary programs receiving federal financial aid will be able to build in-demand skills and advance economically. This policy decision is just one example of the types of bold, decisive moves leaders throughout the learn and work ecosystem can take to help make JFF’s North Star vision a reality: In 10 years, 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement will work in quality jobs.

However, we also call on policymakers to look for opportunities to further improve postsecondary accountability by engaging in ongoing discussion and examination of what metrics yield fair and accurate evaluations of postsecondary program quality, particularly when assessing complex factors such as graduates’ earnings. For example, the earnings premium metric in the final GE regulations will assess whether graduates of career-oriented programs earn wages that are at least equal to the average wage of high school graduates in the state where the program is based. However, relying on that metric alone could lead to inaccurate conclusions because it doesn’t account for regional intrastate variations in wage levels or variations in compensation levels among high-value but often low-paying jobs (such as care economy workers and child care workers).

The stakes are high for both learners and the U.S. economy. Federal policymakers—including members of Congress—should continue to hold programs accountable if they lead to poor outcomes for students, and they should highlight those that lead to economic advancement.

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