Posted Date: September 28, 2011

Author:  David Bergeron, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Innovation, Office of Postsecondary Education

Subject: Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #25 - Disclosures by Educational Program

This electronic announcement provides information on how institutions disclose information for gainful employment programs when the institution offers more than one educational program with the same CIP Code and Credential Level.

Background:

Final regulations published in the Federal Register on October 29, 2010 require institutions that participate in the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, to disclose certain information about their Title IV-eligible educational programs that lead to gainful employment in a recognized occupation (GE Programs). These requirements became effective July 1, 2011. We provided guidance on the GE Program disclosure requirements in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-11-10, posted on our IFAP website (IFAP.ed.gov) on April 20, 2011, and in a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” specifically focused on GE Program disclosures.

On June 13, 2011, we published final regulations establishing the metrics that will be used to determine if a GE Program continues to be an eligible educational program for purposes of the Title IV student assistance programs. Those final regulations provided that, for purposes of the metrics, a GE Program is identified by the program’s institutionally assigned CIP Code and the program’s Credential Level (see the NSLDS Gainful Employment User Guide for a listing of the seven GE Program Credential Levels).

Programs with Same CIP Code and Credential Level:

When developing the final rules for the GE Program eligibility metrics, we understood that some institutions offer more than one educational program with the same CIP Code and Credential Level. For example, an institution might offer a one-year certificate program in a specified subject area and also offer a two-year advanced program in the same subject area. Since both programs have the same CIP Code and Credential Level, data on students from both programs will be used to calculate the GE Program metrics.

The regulatory approach of designating all of an institution’s educational programs that have the same CIP Code and Credential Level as a single GE Program was intentional for purposes of calculating the GE Program metrics.

Disclosure by Educational Program:

In Frequently Asked Question D-Q1 we stated that multiple programs at an institution must be disclosed together if those programs have the same CIP Code and Credential Level. Since the posting of FAQ D-Q1, many institutions have informed us that they offer programs that, while sharing the same CIP Code and Credential Level, are significantly different in one or more ways. A number of those institutions suggested that combining disclosure information for such programs makes the disclosure less useful to prospective students and their families. Because of this we have reviewed the earlier guidance provided in FAQ D-Q1and are modifying it to address instances where the two programs are distinct and warrant separate disclosures to the public. This will ensure that institutions provide more accurate, complete, and useful information in their web disclosures. This revised guidance provides for separate disclosures by educational program under certain conditions, as discussed below.

Correct CIP Code: The first thing an institution should do is to review the CIP Code it had assigned to its educational programs to ensure that it has assigned the most appropriate and descriptive CIP Codes. A listing of CIP codes is available at: http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cip2010.

Making Separate Disclosures: Institutions must consider whether the disclosures provided to prospective students for two programs that share the same CIP Code and Credential Level accurately reflect each program. Institutions should determine whether the information required to be disclosed under the October 29, 2010 regulations at 34 CFR 668.6(b) should be provided separately for each of an institution’s educational programs, even if the program has the same CIP Code and Credential Level as another GE Program at the institution, by responding to the following questions --

  1. Length of the Programs – Is there is a significant difference in the published length of the programs? If the length of the programs differs by more than three months, 12 weeks, or one Title IV payment period, separate disclosures should be considered.

    For example, if an institution offers a one-year gainful employment certificate program and also a two-year certificate program, both with the same CIP Code and Credential Level, this would be a significant difference between the programs where separate disclosures would be needed.

    Likewise, separate disclosures would be needed if, for example, the institution offers a 900 clock hour program, with two 450 hour payment periods, and also offers a 1,350 clock hour program, with three 450 hour payment periods. This would be a significant difference between the programs where separate disclosures would be needed.

  2. Tuition and Fees – Is there is a significant difference in the tuition, fees, or other costs for the programs. Institutions should consider providing separate disclosures if the cost of the programs differs by more than 10 percent. For example, an institution may offer a program in a standard term based format with instruction usually occurring during weekdays at one tuition rate and also offer the same program on-line with a tuition that is 25 percent lower. This would be a significant difference between the programs where separate disclosures would be needed.

  3. Programs Offered in Different States – Are programs offered at different locations in different states that require different placement rate calculations and different minimum requirements? This would be a significant difference between the programs where separate disclosures would be needed.

Implementation Timeline: Institutions should implement this revised guidance as expeditiously as possible so that the information disclosed can meet the objective of providing useful information to prospective students. While we recognize that the scope, effort, and cost of making any needed changes will vary among institutions, we expect that the revised guidance will be included in an institution’s web disclosures within the next two to three months. We note, however, that any institution that has not yet provided the required disclosures that were required by July 1, 2011, must implement their disclosures under this revised guidance immediately.

As a reminder, the guidance in this Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement relates to the disclosure of information for a gainful employment program as required by the regulations at 34 CFR 668.6(b). It does not apply to the definition of a gainful employment program for purposes of reporting under 34 CFR 668.6(a) nor to the calculation of an educational program’s gainful employment metrics under 34 CFR 668.7. For reporting and metric purposes, a gainful employment program at an institution is defined as a program or programs that have the same CIP Code and Credential Level.

We thank the institutions that advised us of these conditions and why combined disclosures would not meet the objective of providing prospective students with useful information.

   

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