Used under Creative Commons license. Originally posted on Flickr by Olga Díez.

The negotiators reconvene starting at 9 a.m. this morning for the middle day of what’s scheduled to be a three-day session. While the negotiators discussed a lot of issues yesterday, there did not appear to be much consensus on many issues. In general, school representatives expressed concerns about discussing some measures without having specific data–particularly the repayment rate, which was referred to as both too strong and too weak at times. The committee also spent some time discussing whether there should be some kind of minimum earnings or completion requirement, with the former being put out by some consumer advocates, and the latter having some endorsement from both the consumer side and at least one for-profit negotiator. A large chunk of the afternoon session also discussed the inevitable question of how much demographics dictate program results or not–an issue that the Department addressed with a fair amount of work in its 2011 version of the rule.

Live updates will appear below.

9 a.m. Borrower Relief

The facilitator notes that there are about eight or nine substantive topics to debate and the committee has sort of made it through one. The committee now moves on to a discussion of borrower reflief. This is something the Department included in response to comments from consumer advocates between sessions. The way it works is if a program would become ineligible in the next year, the program/institution must enter into an agreement with the Department where it either provides a letter of credit or sets aside some loan dollars it would otherwise have received (but still credits the students’ accounts as if they received the dollars). If the program subsequently becomes ineligible, then the Department would take those funds to reduce the debt of students to the point where the program has a passing debt-to-earnings threshold. For a public institution/program, the borrower relief would have to be provided by a full faith and credit pledge.

As an example, if a program has a debt-to-earnings ratio of 15 percent, the amount of relief would be equal to 7 percent of earnings (15 percent minus the 8 percent passing level). This formula works for programs that fail either the debt-to-earnings test or the cohort default rate test.

Eileen Connor, from the New York Legal Assistance Group, says she is glad the Department included this position but is concerned that it does not provide help to all students just currently enrolled ones. The Department acknowledges this, but said having this apply to current students reflects a balance and also preserves the idea of the zone where a program can be struggling but doesn’t face consequences right away.

Marc Jerome from Monroe College notes that this idea is somewhat similar to the idea he had submitted in his comments. What that would have done is allow a program to immediately allow all prospective students to have their debt limited to a threshold that the Department thought was appropriate, his proposal had said 12 percent, but he suggests being open to other limits. The idea here is that rather than the school paying for the reduction, the borrowers just never take on as much loan amounts in the first place. Though this can cost the school in the form of lost revenue. The Department is concerned about how to actually cancel the loan amount. Jerome says it could be done through a reduction in tuition or increase in scholarships. Jerome says they could fund students to the level where those who already have too much debt could not borrow more because they would have scholarship dollars. The Department says it will consider it but needs more specifics.

Barmak Nassirian from AASCU does not seem to like Jerome’s idea. He says that if the college can manipulate students’ loan amounts through packaging or other things, then that’s something the school can do under current law. He says that this creates a loophole where you over package everyone with excessive debt and then make them whole as loans come in. In other words, he’s arguing that the college would just package everyone right up to the threshold that’s considered acceptable. Note: What if the threshold got set to zero? Jerome’s language prior to his actual regulatory language suggestion suggests no debt at one point.

Margaret Reiter, who represents consumer advocacy organizations says what this proposal would do is prevent a program from ever losing eligibility, since a failing program could pay down its debt to be passing for two years and avoid penalties. “You would never be able to say this program is really not performing,” she says. She notes this may not be a bad thing because the debt burden is being lowered in two or three years. But she’s not sure if high-debt burden programs should be able to keep operating in this cycle. She also says that if part of the rule is designed to get at programs that may not be too expensive, but are lousy in terms of results, which this would not deal with. Note: There are several other measures at play here, so it’s not clear that this would exempt a program form the program cohort default rate or the loan portfolio repayment rate.

Richard Heath from Anne Arundel Community College notes that colleges already have the ability in the financial aid office to limit student debt on a case-by-case basis. He calls this a complicated workaround to something that can already be done on a case-by-case basis. He also raises the concern that this borrower relief does not deal with a program that’s so horrendous that should not have any student debt. Heath notes the presence of states’ attorneys general about whether states would be willing to stand by and pledge full faith and credit for its colleges. He notes that Maryland has independent community colleges that get some state dollars but that are actually prohibited from taking on debt.

Della Justice from the Kentucky from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office said she cannot speak to what states can or cannot pledge, but notes this does sound like a return of student financial aid funds type calculation. She indicates some concern that Jerome’s proposal could be manipulated as Reiter had described. She also asks why bring the debt down to just passing levels and not wipe it out entirely? The Department says because here the failure is based upon a specific quantifiable amount, so you can calculate a relief amount.

There’s some question as to which students actually get this relief based upon when they were enrolled. For example, Justice is asking if students that were enrolled in the year prior to eligibility loss but are no longer enrolled in the year it loses aid would be given relief. For example, in a one-year program, students would no longer be enrolled after one year. Kolotos notes the Department has never done this before and the Department thinks the way the borrower relief is constructed is a reasonable approach to require repayment of prior loan debt taken on by students who have left may not be feasible.

Kolotos notes that the Department does not want to encourage program closures at this point, so there’s a need to balance not producing such a large monetary amount owed that it just shuts down, but enough so that programs that are making substantive improvements are encouraged to continue participating.

Suggestion: If the concern about borrower relief is that programs should not have any debt in some cases, then you could solve this problem by setting the relief amount to what it would take to pass the discretionary debt-to-earnings test. What this would mean is a program that fails because earnings are too low would have to have their debt reduced to $0, since that’s the only way to pass. It provides a way to lower some debt and wipe some debt out for others.

Rory O’Sullivan from Young Invincibles asks whether a student that’s been enrolled for say three years out of a four-year program would get the same debt relief amount as someone who’s been enrolled for multiple years. The Department says its focus had been on short-term program relief, so it needs to think about the issue.

Jerome again argues for his proposal because he thinks the Department’s proposal does not stop overborrowing, but instead only has consequences when a program is close to kicking in. He also argues that this will take a long time to litigate with each institution/program. He says his idea would let students get relief on the front end right away after the first metric comes in. Kolotos calls for a 10 minute break to discuss.

Kolotos responds to Heath’s concern about the full faith and credit pledge, says it would be treated as a liability just like any other liability a public college has to face if loan dollars are awarded that should not have been. The Department says it would use its authority as a lender to just pay down borrowers’ debts with any dollars received.

10:25 a.m. Still on Borrower Relief

The committee is back after a longer-than expected break. The Department said the examples it was presenting was a one-year fix for short-term programs and is open for discussions of some of the mechanics, especially with what to do with multi-year programs.

Kolotos explains a bit more (this is close to a direct quote): In essence, what we’re doing is what is the percentage difference in borrowing between a passing program and what a program actually scored at. You take that percentage difference and multiply it by the amount of loans of currently enrolled students. For a four-year program, it would take into account loans received as freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. If they were juniors, it would be estimated loan amount in final year.

Connor says that this just gets a program to the bare minimum floor and that this doesn’t necessarily get to the quality of the program and just allows it to pass.

Here’s the actual language for who gets relief based upon the Department’s language: “provide for borrower relief for students currently enrolled in, and borrowing to attend, the program.” That seems to suggest that students enrolled in the program the year before it would lose eligibility would receive this forgiveness, but it’s hard to parse. What is clear is that this borrower relief would not apply to the students who had graduated three or four years prior and are being used to actually generate the calculations.

Reiter argues that students that get partial loan reduction will not help them if they still cannot get a job. Suggests it is inadequate relief. Jerome says he cannot go back and change the past on data he did not have since this is the first time that schools received Social Security Administration earnings amount.

Kolotos notes that there is an appeal option within the borrower relief provision that allows an institution to argue for a smaller letter of credit or set aside agreement if it can show that students are not borrowing as much. Jerome says he will look at it.

Kevin Jensen from the College of Western Idaho asks whether a state that does not step up and back an institution would be able to have a set-aside agreement. Kolotos says he is not aware of any state that has not stepped up to back a school, noting it is part of the financial responsibility requirements. The Department also notes that it could handle this the way it does for over payments in the Pell Program–count aid against future disbursements. Kolotos notes that the goal is to avoid having public institutions post a letter of credit. If the full faith and credit pledge doesn’t work, it can be treated like any other liability with the Department.

10:45 a.m. Does Poor Repayment Indicate Bad Quality?

Belle Wheelan from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges does not think that a program that’s not paying its loan back is necessarily a bad program. She says that students may be gainfully employed and choosing not to pay back loans. She reiterates that she’s not comfortable making the leap to assume that a program with poor loan repayment is actually a low-quality program.

Brian Jones from Strayer University notes that there are other provisions for borrower relief in existing rules and regulations, such as a closed school. But he notes that one place where a discharge cannot occur is if a student is enrolled in a program elsehwere. He says this indicates that there is some value in the program because the student can take that credit elsewhere. He’s concerned that failing this metric is being conflated with the quality of the program. The Department said yesterday this is not trying to indicate the quality of a program. He also points out that not all of the programs under consideration here are strictly vocational and suggests that the way the closed school discharge should work should be factored into borrower consideration. It’s not entirely clear what this would mean in specifics, but he wants this calculated into what the liability should be if the program has some worth elsewhere in the educational marketplace.

Reiter notes that students who attend a program that ultimately fails also have reduced their lifetime limits for Pell Grants and Subsidized Stafford Loans. She calls for the Department to not count those amounts toward the lifetime caps for those programs if taken on while in a failing program.

Raymond Testa from Empire Education Group notes that these provisions are being discussed on a rule that’s never really existed before and gets a bit animated. “We’re awfully arrogant to think we have found the holy grail of measurements,” he says. He says negotiators are blind if they think institutions operate only in the context of gainful employment, noting the presence of state and accrediting actions, as well as the Department. He says that he will provide a proposal later today for risk-adjustment for students. He also raises concerns that there’s no focus on the lot of satisfied students. He doesn’t want programs held accountable for benchmarks that have never existed before.

Jerome again calls for debt-to-earnings rates for everyone in the country. Note that the College Scorecard will be getting earnings data added to it in early 2014. That’s not quite the same thing, though provides some way to provide an estimated debt-to-earnings rate.

11:25 a.m. Certifications and Approval Process For Existing Programs

Up next is a discussion of certifying gainful employment programs that exist but do not have measures calculated yet. The idea is that the head of a college would certify that the program meets certain requirements for the state or accrediting agency, including that it has the approval for necessary certification for students to get licensed.

Jensen from the College of Western Idaho says he likes this provision and wants to know if a program that’s in pre-approval status would be OK under this certification. Kolotos says the concept is the same and it would be OK.

Nassirian calls it a good “opening bid.” He wants a due diligence requirement on the institution that the program is likely to meet expected financial metrics that the Department views as markers of reasonable success. He wants some evidence of market viability that would likely meet what the Department sees as an acceptable program.

Reiter asks about programmatic accreditation where it may not be required, but it’s generally needed. For example, she notes that sometimes years of experience can be substituted for completing a programatically accredited program. She’s concerned that’s a loophole and wants the language to clarify that just because every single employer does not require programmatic accreditaiton does not mean it should not be seen as necessary. She also raises concerns about placement opportunities, which many programs are expected to provide, noting that sometimes placements may technically available but are too far away for a student to get to or are not in their area.

Ted Daywalt from VetJobs asks if this provision will stop institutions from offering programs where graduates cannot sit for necessarily licensing tests because it does not have the correct approvals. The Department says this provision is supposed to help get at this issue. Daywalt wants stronger language that explicitly says there is no funding.

Sandra Kinney from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System wants to note that not all programs have programmatic accreditation. She says they try to get it where its needed.

Neil Harvison, from the Association of Specialized and Professional Acccreditors, says the language is clear where it’s talking about required programmatic accreditation. But he’s concerned that it’s harder to set the criteria if employers “prefer” it but do not actually need it. He also notes that concerns about how far away experiential things like internships are supposed to be disclosed to students before they enroll so they should be aware of possibly having to travel.

Medical assisting is a good example of where the line between required and necessary can be blurred. States don’t have required certification, but employers generally desire some form of certification. But there are at least four different options. Some require the completion of a programmatically accredited offering and are good for three to five years; others may only be good for a year and can be obtained just through workplace experience. Employers generally prefer the type of certification that’s good for longer and requires program completion, but there’s not a stated requirement that only those kinds of certification are acceptable.

Harvison says Reiter’s issue could be addressed by saying that the program has to have programmatic accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education, if required. Nassirian, however, says the issue is there can be programs that appear to prepare people for something that does require licensure, but it’s not actually in a field that requires licnesure. His example is telling students they are preparing for nursing, but it’s really a nurse technologist requirement.

Jerome notes that the misrepresentation rules can deal with this issue of “certificate” creep. He says he likes the Department’s idea but wants it to be kept simple.

Justice notes the issue of certified medical assistants, which notes there is a preferred exam that is not required, but very much wanted by employers. She notes that not having this preferred certification makes it very tough to get jobs in an area, if not impossible. She says schools should know what requirements are needed in a region.

Afternoon Session

The committee is back with a suggestion from Thomas Dalton from Excelsior College about working with other negotiators to come up with a standard under which a program could be exempt from these regulations. He suggests maybe something like a low program cohort default rate for three straight years.

Next up are some comments from Christine Johnson, Capella University’s government affairs official, to talk about how they handle offering education in 50 states. She says that when a student is looking at a licensure option they have students talk with a counselor about goals and make sure they are looking for licensure on the right type of job. They will also lay out potential barriers to licensure, such as more requirements for credits. They will then notify students several types of year about the licensure requirements, including any changes. Students then sign a disclosure that acknowledges the licensure requirements.

Nassirian asks how much of what Capella does is voluntary best practices versus a mandatory threshold to particpate, since they are trying to figure out what should be minimally required of everybody.

Justice asks Johnson if Capella still offers programs to students if they are in a state where it is incapable of receiving licensure. Johnson says that though they inform the student they cannot seek a license, such as some programs that require APA approval, they still let them enroll. She notes that some students enroll without the goal of licensure. Justice asks what kinds of jobs those students end up getting if they cannot get licensure. Johnson said she will get back to them on what those jobs are, but notes some students may move to another state where they can get licensed. She acknowledges that this issue is handled through disclosure.

1:30 p.m. New Program Approvals

The Department proposes to look at new programs only if they are substantially similar to one that failed out of the federal student aid programs or was voluntarily shut down as it was failing. It would also look at approval if it was in a new type of instructional program as what the institution already offered or if it had a program in the past three years it had a failing program in the same type of instructional program family. Programs that have to apply would then need to include some information, including letters of recommendation from likely employers.

Reiter has a number of concerns about what’s in the required application that indicate she thinks it is not strong enough. For example, she thinks that the employer letters of recommendation need to come from employers that have actually hired people in the relevant fields lately. She also raises a concern that the language as drafted require just the provision of the information in the application, but nothing around what happens if it’s inaccurate or says that the program would not have sufficient programmatic accreditaiton. She thinks this will do nothing to stop predatory actors. Kolotos says they will consider langauge.

Kinney asks about the mechanism for submitting this information and how long the turnaround time for approval would be. She’s also worried about what to do with colleges that may operate on a state border and have a lot of graduates work in a different state from the school, so requirements about being able to obtain employment in the state where the program is offered could be difficult. Jeff Baker from the Federal Student Aid office says that they are working on improving the E-App system so these items could be submitted through it. He also says they are talking with the program compliance teams to get things turned around quickly.

Jensen also asks about conditions under which the Department would deny applications. Finley from ED says they would spot-check applications for accuracy and fraudulent data could be grounds for denial.

Wheelan responds to Reiter’s comment about employers that have actually hired peope, saying that some industries may move in quickly and not be hiring in the region yet. Reiter suggests having the employers indicate they are a new industry in the area.

Jones asks about the Department’s legal authority around asking for institutions that have not had any problematic programs to go through this activity. I unfortunately missed Finley’s response to this question.

A discussion then follows about where these approval requirements would fit within the existing state review work. For example, Jerome talks about all the work he has to do through the New York Board of Regents. Kolotos asks if that would mean the Department would have to rank states on their ability to provide oversight, suggesting that’s not a great solution. Justice indicates they do not want of these requirements to pre-empt state law.

Nassirian says he thinks letters of recommendation are just noise in the system and meaningless.

Jensen suggests that these requirements should come in after failure to get state approval. This would allow programs that already go through a lot of approval and rigor from a state to not have to provide a lot of information for this process. He also raises the concern about how the Department does not have clearer standards for not approving bad applications.

Nassirian questions whether relying on state approval makes sense. He notes that if states were doing a good job with approval then these negotiations would not be necessary. He notes that it’s uneven across states and asks how decisions about the differences in the adequacy of state approval could be made.

Jensen says if we don’t trust states to do the job they are supposed to do, then that’s a big problem. There’s a bit of a confusion about whether states just approve institutions or programs. The federal government does not require state approval of each program, but some states do it anyway.

Harvison brings up his earlier concern that this section of the rule may be trying to do more than this one rule can do. He notes that you can’t solve all the problems in higher education in one rule.

Justice says that since this is gainful employment and most of these programs will be coming from places that had problems in the past, then the Department should be the one to do the upfront approval check.

Heath says the Department should then do the debt-to-earnings upfront and tell them institutionally how much they should be able to loan based upon expected results. Kolotos says the Department could potentially project a debt-to-earnings rate, but there’s no assurance that a program would continue to meet this rate over time. This would make that protection illusory. He doesn’t think they would get an application that would project to fail these standards.

Jerome closes this discussion noting that the Department has some limitations on what it can do on program approval based upon the judge’s ruling on the last gainful employment rule. That footnote is:

The court notes, however, that the broader argument is not frivolous. The program approval rule requires any school that wishes to offer a Title IV-eligible gainful employment program to submit an application to the Secretary, who can wait until a month before the beginning of class to decide whether he will examine the program more closely. See 34 C.F.R. §§ 600.10(c)(1), 600.20(d)(1)(ii)(B). If he decides to take a closer look, he can reject an application because he finds “the process and determination by the institution” to be “[in]sufficient.” Id. § 600.20(d)(1)(ii)(E)(4). A school submitting a new program for approval must “[d]escribe . . . how the institution determined the need for the program and how the program was designed to meet . . . market needs.” Id. § 600.20(d)(2)(i). For the Secretary to have the power to perform an evaluation of the market demand for every new gainful employment program brings him dangerously close to exercising “supervision . . . over the . . . program of instruction . . . of an[] educational institution.” 20 U.S.C. § 1232a. A proposed revision to the program approval rule would substantially narrow the Secretary’s power. See Application and Approval Process for New Programs, 76 Fed. Reg. 59,864, 59,877 (Sept. 27, 2011) (proposing amendments to 34 C.F.R. §§ 600.10, 600.20).

3:05 p.m. Reporting Requirements

Kolotos says the Department hopes to finish the discussion of the regulatory text today and leave tomorrow for discussion of anything that’s submitted tonight with revised text tomorrow.

Kolotos says the Department can include Perkins loans in its debt-to-earnings calculation, but they would have to be reported as an institutional loan in the reporting requirements.

Raymond Testa asks about the ability to include all students who applied for federal student aid, not just those who receive the aid, in the counts of students. This would allow people who did not receive federal aid to be captured as well and expand the cohort. He’s concerned that $0 borrowers are now excluded (though really only $0 borrowers who did not receive Pell Grants) , which raises the mean and median loan figure. The Department says they are continuing to talk about it, but it’s a difficult issue it will try to answer tomorrow.

Heath asks if the gainful employment reporting is in addition to what’s already being given out for other purposes. He says this moves a little closer to unit data reporting on students. The Department disagrees. The colleges already do enrollment reporting, and adds a little bit more information for gainful employment purposes.

3:25 p.m. Disclosures

Kolotos says this is pretty similar to what was in the last iteration of language in that it contains a list of items that would be whittled down to fewer items on an actual template. It did, however, change the one-click requirement in response to Testa.

Jerome asks if the Department could collect this same information for non-gainful employment programs as well. He notes that the Department cannot hold them accountable the same way as the gainful employment programs, but asks if they could get that information so the student could choose between gainful and non-gainful programs. The Department’s lawyer says that question is outside the scope of this negotiation and cannot address it now.

Libby DeBlasio from the Colorado Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Section says she thinks consumer testing this form will be important. She also thinks that cost, primary occupation, and some other elements must be required in the template, and let the Secretary have discretion about other items beyond those. She also talks about the website disclsoures, which last time she found were not often easy to find or clear to understand. She thinks the language that the disclosures be clear and conspicious is importnat, but not strong enough. She wants the Department to consider adding the word “prominently,” which has some legal understanding. She also mentions some discussions from the FTC about having it displayed next to certain trigger words and be “above the fold,” so that students do not have to scroll down to them. She thinks a web link is ok, but must be clear, conspicuous, and prominent and must be in these regulations because an electronic announcement to schools is not enough. Finally, she thinks that the disclosures must be made before the student signs the enrollment agreement and that it must be done verbally as well as in writing.

Jerome argues for simplifying it to three items: (1) salaries, (2) debt levels, and I believe (3) completion rates. He says those simpler items will give people what they need to know.

Jones asks where these disclosures fit with ratings, scorecards, and all the other disclosure items that the Department is working on. He asks if that’s going to be coming at consumers with too many disclosures. He asks them to keep the bigger picture of these elements in mind. He asks how it will be included in the rating system generally. The Department says it is outside the scope of this process. It could be reasonable to do for other programs, but that’s not the place for this conversation.

Kinney agrees that fewer disclosures are better, otherwise it will be expensive to do and could have those costs passed on to students. Kolotos reminds individuals that there would be a disclosure template that would not have all the items on this list and the Department would calculate many of these items for colleges to try and minimize burden.

Jensen asks if the template could employ skip logic like what is currently used on the FAFSA–such as skipping over some elements for smaller programs where items cannot be disclosed.

Heath says that before students can add a gainful employment program they have to go down through the disclosure requirements and read the potential job and earnings before they can add that certificate and take classes for it. He thinks this is necessary because students can typically add programs whenever they want and so they should have to do this before they can add a program.

Reiter brings up the issue of placement rate, which was something that some negotiators had submitted a proposal around. She says that the placement rate disclosed there should be at least as strong as what negotiators had submitted, but allow programs to report ones that are tougher (e.g., require students to be enrolled for longer).

Kolotos says this is not a program review process. If the Department cannot find the disclosures quickly (i.e. 10 minutes) it will contact the institution and ask them to correct it.

Reiter is concerned about what it means to have to disclose information about a program by name. She notes that a program might technically be a “less-than one-year certificate in dental assisting,” so ads that talk about a career as a dental assistant might not have to disclose this information. She also cites an example of an advertisement for a career in nursing, without a specific name attached. She also wants language added that prevents an institution from trying to denigrate or undermine the importance of the language.

Ronnie Higgs from California State University–Monterey Bay objects to the requirement to orally disclose information to students. He says they do not come into contact with everyone before they enroll. Reiter says it is a burden, but students also are taking on a burden by enrolling. She suggests colleges could make a video to disclose it. For the record, that doesn’t seem like a great idea, unless it has pandas, mabye?

4:15 p.m. Defense Against Collection Actions

After some discussions about the mechanics of data corrections that deal more with timing of data being released, there’s a discussion about the conforming changes added to the rule about discharge options. The Department had added some language denying the borrower’s right to challenge collection proceedings based upon failing programs. The Department’s lawyer notes that the Department often gets discharge applications for things that occurred years or decades prior. Connor is concerned about having the right to a defense being denied to the student entirely since a school could shut down and the borrower couldn’t go after them for relief.

The Department says this would not eliminate the right to challenge a collection action based upon misrepresentation or things of that nature, which could include a lack of accreditation.

Nassirian is not pleased. He indicates that he thinks this goes beyond the scope of the negotiations. Connor and O’Sullivan also are concerned about the scope of this provision. Nassirian mentions an attempt in the late 1990s to convene a negotiation panel on borrower defenses to repayment and the group reached consensus after a day to not deal with this issue. The Department says that is not an accurate description of that session and this is an attempt to fix an unacceptable situation that was left in place there.

Reiter also brings up the concern about scope and this would need its own negotiated rulemaking session. She also notes that the Department was not willing to discuss the false certification provisions as out of scope and why this does not also fall out of scope.

The Department said it already addressed false certification in a different rulemaking so that’s why it was not brought up here. The Department says this is not a change to the discharge statute from 20 years ago, but will go back and look at the issue again.

Jensen also objets to this provision and says it feels like more than just a conforming change. He and Nassirian are the only representatives of colleges to weigh in on this question.

DeBlasio says that the defense options of borrowers are limited because they often have mandatory arbitration clauses and so cannot seek relief from the schools.

4:35 p.m. Alternative Earnings Measures

The Department had previously included language saying that programs could document their earnings through other means as long as it was approved by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). To make this process easier, NCES will develop a form for what this could look like so that it is easier to follow. In conducting the survey, the institution can include students that do not receive federal student aid.

Nassirian is concerned that the Department would not automatically receive the data. It would be given through an attestation and could be subject to review. It would not be stored in the National Student Loan Data System.

Jerome likes the inclusion of the non-federal student aid students in this measure.

Data Corrections and Challenges

The Department notes that the program cohort default rate would be challenged the same way that institutional cohort default rates are. Jerome reiterates an earlier request for informational data.

Mohr asks if the program could be exempted due to having low percentages of students borrow (what’s known as a participation rate index challnge) after one year of high rates instead of waiting for three years of rates that would produce a sanction. The Department will consider the issue.

4:45 p.m. Wrapping Up

Nassirian asks if proposals for exceptional performance would be discussed tomorrow. The Department said it would take ideas, but did not see much interest from the committee and does not plan to discuss it.

That’s it for today. Back at 9 a.m. tomorrow.