Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter
Publication Date: 5/20/2021
Earlier this week, the Department of Education (ED) indicated that it would not reverse Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ repeal of the gainful employment rules and would instead go through the negotiated rulemaking process to restore the Obama-era regulations.
The move by ED was announced through a letter, first reported by POLITICO, which cited correspondence with the department from an administrative complaint filed by a consumer advocacy group, Student Defense.
According to the letter, ED could not reverse DeVos’ repeal of the guidance because “the Department is legally obligated to conduct negotiated rulemaking and notice and comment requirements prior to proposing any changes to the Code of Federal Regulations with respect to Federal student financial aid programs, including with respect to regulations on the subject of gainful employment.”
While ED could not grant Student Defense the relief it requested, it did indicate that the Biden administration was looking to revisit the guidance.
“The new leadership at the Department is reviewing and plans to revisit its policies relating to gainful employment in the future, as our resources and competing priorities permit, both with regard to the data and information considered in rescinding the gainful employment regulations and more broadly,” the letter read.
Gainful employment regulations were first proposed and finalized during President Barack Obama’s administration — first in 2011 before essentially being gutted when a federal judge said the core of the rule (a debt-to-income ratio) was developed arbitrarily, and again in 2014 — and then rescinded during President Donald Trump’s term through the regulatory process.
Due to the rescission of gainful employment, there’s ambiguity in what it means to be gainfully employed, leaving the phrase undefined and creating a vacuum in oversight in how certain programs prepare students for viable career paths.
Stay tuned to Today’s News for more developments on gainful employment.