Happy New Year! As if one did not know, it is the start of a new calendar year! The beginning of a new year has come to be known, for postsecondary education institutions with Gainful Employment (GE) programs, as the time for updating the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED), Gainful Employment Disclosure Template (GEDT). But, if you are waiting for the new year’s GEDT as the sign of the new year’s start, you may be a little late in realizing the new year has already begun!
Delayed Release of GE Disclosure Template
Currently, ED anticipates the release of the 2017 GE Disclosure Template in the latter part of January 2017. The template has typically been made available in the fall of each year so that schools could ensure they had their GE Disclosure Information posted and distributed by January 31 of each year following the most recently completed award year. This year, 2017, ED does not yet have the GEDT available for schools to use to update their GE Disclosure Information for the award year ending June 30, 2016. The main reason stated for the delay in availability this year is due to extensive revisions to the GEDT that are necessary to make the template compliant with the new requirements of the October 31, 2014, Final Regulations. This is the first year in which these new disclosure requirements are effective.
Upon ED releasing the updated GE Disclosure Template, schools will have at least 60 days to ensure they are in compliance with the regulatory requirements for posting and disseminating GE Disclosure Information based upon use of the new GEDT.
Deadline for Implementing New GEDT
ED will provide a specific Electronic Announcement on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) Web site when the new GEDT is released. When it is released, ED’s Electronic Announcement will provide a specific calendar date by which ED will expect schools to be in compliance with posting the new GEDT on their GE programs’ Web sites, the requirement to include the disclosure information in all of the school’s GE program’s promotional materials, having begun to provide the template information to prospective students by hand-delivery or e-mail.
Distinction between GEDT Disclosure Requirement and GE Student Warning Requirements
GEDT Disclosure Requirements
All schools with GE programs must provide the information from the GEDT within 60 days of ED releasing the 2017 GEDT. This requirement is separate and distinct from the requirement (discussed below) that schools have to provide a warning to their GE Program’s students and prospective students when ED notifies the school (via a Notice of Determination), that the program could become ineligible based upon subsequent Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) rates measures.
It is important to note that beginning with the 2017 GEDT, schools must provide the GEDT to prospective students as a separate and distinct document before the student signs an enrollment agreement, completes registration, or makes any financial commitment to the school.
Schools may deliver the GEDT information to prospective students:
- individually (e.g., in an admissions interview),
- in a group presentation, or
- by sending it to the student’s primary e-mail address used for communicating with the student.
If the GEDT is sent by e-mail, it must be sent as the only substantive subject in the e-mail. That is, the e-mail may not contain multiple topics of information.
If the GEDT is delivered to a prospective student in person or in a group setting, the school must obtain written confirmation from the student receiving it. If the GEDT information is provided by e-mail, the school must have means of documenting electronic or written confirmation that the e-mail with the GEDT was received. If the e-mail cannot be delivered (e.g., the e-mail address is no longer valid), the school must utilize a different valid e-mail address for the student (and receive confirmation of receipt) or use an alternate method of delivering it, such as in person, and receiving written confirmation of receipt. Each school must maintain record of its efforts to provide the GEDT to prospective students.
GE Warning Requirements
Similar to the GE Disclosure requirements, schools may also deliver the necessary GE warnings to enrolled students in person, individually or in a group setting, following the same requirements necessary to document the dissemination of the GEDT (i.e., obtain confirmation of delivery if delivered in person, and if e-mail is used, schools must ensure use of a valid e-mail address and acknowledgment of delivery), and maintain record of its delivery efforts.
As with the requirements for enrolled students, the required GE warnings may be delivered to prospective students in the same way at the prospective student’s initial contact with the school. Note, however, that the school may also choose, for prospective students, the options of:
- providing the GEDT that includes the necessary warnings on it, or
- if the first contact is by telephone, by giving the information orally.
Note that the school “may not actually enroll, register, or have the student enter into a financial commitment based solely on an oral warning. Accordingly, any student to whom a warning was provided orally must, prior to being enrolled, registered, or entering into a financial commitment with the institution, receive a written warning.”
The key is to be able to document delivery of the information to students and prospective students.
It must be realized that if a school wishes to distribute the warnings on the GEDT, the new GEDT that includes the warning may not yet be available at the time that your school is required to start disseminating the mandated GE warnings to prospective students. (For example, the warnings, if required, must be given to students once the final D/E rates measures have been released. These final rates are anticipated to be released in mid-January 2017, prior to the availability of the template.)
If a school is required to provide GE Program student warnings, it must update (effective with the 2017 GEDT) its GEDT to include the applicable warnings. The update to the school’s GEDT must be completed within the timeframe ED specifies (to be announced in a forthcoming ED Electronic Announcement).
Denied Action Timeframe
For GE programs that have GE student warning requirements, schools are prohibited from certain actions. That is, schools may not enroll, register, or enter into a financial commitment with prospective students any sooner than three business days after the warning has been provided to the individual student. If more than 30 days have passed from the date the student was first provided the warnings and the student has not yet enrolled, registered, or entered into a financial commitment with the school, the school must then provide the prospective student with another GE Program warning statement and wait an additional three business days before enrolling or registering the prospective student, or entering into a financial commitment with them.
Defining Steps to Take
To be prepared for the upcoming 2017 GE Disclosure Template and any necessary student warning requirements, it will be helpful to consider the following points:
- Ensure your school is currently providing the 2016 GEDT in all promotional materials available to prospective students
- Make certain your school is displaying the current 2016 GEDT on your school’s Web site in accordance with regulatory and ED guidance.
- Be on the watch (on IFAP.ed.gov) for forthcoming communication from ED regarding the 2017 GEDT availability.
- Check your ED Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG) mailbox regularly for any anticipated (or, unanticipated) Notice of Determination that the school’s program(s) may become ineligible based upon subsequent D/E rates measures.
- Plan now your method and procedures for disseminating required student warnings to current and prospective students.
- Determine the process you will use to track whether you need to re-disclose the GE student warnings to prospective students (i.e., those who are not enrolled, registered or in a financial commitment with your school within 30 days of your initially providing the GE student warnings to them).
- Decide on your approach for the timely updating of your 2017 GE Disclosure Templates to include the GE program student warnings if your school is informed of the need to do so via a Notice of Determination from ED after the 2017 GEDT is posted.
Full, accurate, and timely disclosure of applicable GE Disclosure and Warning information is a key to a school meeting ED compliance requirements. Being aware of the above information and taking appropriate action will go a long way toward a school fulfilling the easier aspects of the Gainful Employment stipulations in Federal Student Aid administration.
This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered to be giving legal advice.
 GE Electronic Announcement #99, December 16, 2016; U.S. Department of Education.
 Gainful Employment Operations Manual, November 2015; U.S. Department of Education, pages 36-37.
 GE EA #99, op. cit.