After earlier delays in implementation, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) has instructed postsecondary education institutions that more extensive distribution requirements for Gainful Employment (GE) program disclosures will take effect on July 1, 2019. The Department has also released additional detailed guidance concerning the 2019 GE Disclosure Template, which makes significant changes to both the content and format of the template compared to previous years. Pursuant to the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, GE programs include all non-degree educational programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, and all educational programs offered by proprietary institutions. Therefore, all postsecondary institutions should review the Department materials referenced in this alert and take appropriate steps to comply by the regulatory deadline.
2019 GE Disclosure Template
On May 9 and June 7, 2019, respectively, the Department published Electronic Announcement #119 and Electronic Announcement #121, providing the 2019 GE Disclosure Template and detailed guidance concerning its revised required content, format and related procedures. Unlike previous iterations of the template that institutions were required to generate via a web-based application, there is no automated means provided by the Department to create the 2019 GE Disclosure Template. Instead, institutions may copy the prescribed template text and fill in the information for their GE program(s), complete the relevant data elements, and post the completed disclosure template to each relevant program webpage. Institutions must ensure that when posting the template, the information is clearly available on the program website. Any institutional web page containing academic, cost, financial aid, or admissions information about a GE program must include the GE Disclosure Template for that program or a prominent, readily accessible, clear, conspicuous, and direct link to the program’s disclosure template.
The 2019 GE Disclosure Template has been simplified and streamlined from previous versions, requiring the following data elements:
- Normal time to complete the program;
- Total program costs if completing the program within 100% of normal time (including tuition and fees plus books, supplies, and equipment; excluding room, board, or other expenses);
- Median cumulative debt for Title IV students completing the program within 100% of normal time (including Federal, private, and institutional debt);
- Licensure information for the program’s target occupation;
- URL for the College Scorecard; and
- Warning language if required under 34 CFR 668.410.
The required text to accompany the above data elements is available in Microsoft Word format from the Department here. Institutions may include an institutional logo and/or provide additional information on the same webpage as the 2019 GE Disclosure Template, as long as all required elements are present and meet any state requirements for accessibility. All mandatory elements must be displayed in a manner that is prominent, readily accessible, clear, conspicuous, and direct.
The template includes mandatory student warning language if the applicable GE program could become ineligible for Title IV federal student aid based on the next round of final programmatic debt-to-earnings rates. Under current regulations, a GE program loses Title IV eligibility after receiving overall “fail” debt-to-earnings rates in any two (2) out of three (3) consecutive award years for which rates are calculated, or after receiving a combination of “fail” and “zone” debt-to-earnings rates for four (4) consecutive award years for which rates were calculated. Warning requirements are temporarily suspended for programs with an alternate earnings appeal currently under consideration. Within 30 days after the withdrawal or rejection of a program’s appeal, an institution must revise its GE Disclosures to include the warning.
Institutions have until July 1, 2019 to update disclosures for each of their GE programs using the 2019 GE Disclosure Template, and to post the disclosures to program webpages.
Distribution Requirements for GE Disclosure Template
On May 23, 2019, the Department published Electronic Announcement #120 informing institutions that regulations previously promulgated at 34 CFR §§ 668.412(d) and (e), which require the GE Disclosure Template to be distributed to students, prospective students, third parties acting on behalf of prospective students, and the public, also will become effective July 1, 2019. These distribution requirements are in addition to the above-discussed posting of the GE Disclosure Template on the program’s webpage. Below is a summary of the additional distribution requirements:
- Promotional Materials – All promotional materials made available by or on behalf of an institution to prospective students that identify a GE program by name, or which otherwise promote the program, must include the disclosure template in a prominent manner. In cases where space or airtime constraints would preclude providing the disclosure template, an institution must include the Web address (URL) of, or the direct link to, the disclosure template. That URL or link must be prominent, readily accessible, clear, conspicuous, and direct. The Department’s regulations further define promotional materials to include, but are not limited to, an institution’s catalogs, invitations, flyers, billboards and advertising on or through radio, television, print media, the internet and social media. An institution must also ensure that all promotional materials regarding a GE program are accurate and current at the time they are published, approved by a state agency or broadcast.
- Direct Delivery to Prospective Students – Institutions must provide to a prospective student or a third party acting on behalf of the prospective student, as a separate document from any other materials, a copy of the disclosure template before the prospective student signs an enrollment agreement, completes registration, or makes a financial commitment to the institution. In complying with this requirement, institutions may directly provide the disclosure template to the prospective student or third party by either of the following means, provided that the accompanying conditions also are satisfied:
- Hand-Delivery – Institutions may provide the disclosure template to the prospective student or third party by hand-delivering the disclosure template to the prospective student or third party individually, or as part of a group presentation. If utilizing this method of delivery, the institution must obtain written confirmation of receipt from the prospective student or third party.
- Email – Institutions may send the disclosure template to the primary email address used by the institution for communicating with the prospective student or third party about the program. However, if using this method of delivery, the institution must (1) ensure that the disclosure template is the only substantive content in the email; (2) receive electronic or other written acknowledgement of receipt from the prospective student or third party; (3) send the disclosure template using a different address or method of delivery if the institution receives a response that the email could not be delivered; and (4) maintain records of its efforts to provide the disclosure template.
Please do not hesitate to contact the author or any member of our Education Law team if you have any questions regarding these reporting requirements, this alert, or other educational regulatory matters.