When Things Stay the Same…
The Gainful Employment Reporting Deadline Has Not Changed
This year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride as it relates to postsecondary institutions’ Gainful Employment (GE) programs. We have noticed more than once this year, that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has granted slight reprieves for the deadlines to meet some GE requirements.
As those impacted are aware, institutions with any GE program that is in the zone or that is a failing program are allowed by law to submit an alternate earnings appeal if the use of alternate earnings would:
- improve a zone program to passing, or
- a failing program to either passing or zone.
The deadline for such submission has been extended twice this year: from the original March 10, 2017, to July 1, 2017, and now from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018. Additionally, institutions with GE programs that were not meeting the required GE Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) metrics also received notice of a delay in the requirement to proactively distribute warnings individually to students and prospective students related to those GE programs that could become ineligible based on subsequent D/E rates. Note, however, that the updated GE Disclosure Template released on January 19, 2017, was still required to be in use on institutions’ Web sites by July 1, 2017. (See FAME’s July 21, 2017, Regulatory Bulletin, “Extended Deadline for GE Disclosures and Warnings” for more information.)
Staying the Course
Even though there have been modifications to the deadline dates for submitting alternate earnings appeals and for distributing the warnings individually to enrolled and prospective students as mentioned above, the deadline for the annual GE reporting has not changed. ED has specified in GE Electronic Announcement #107 (GE EA #107) that the annual GE reporting for the 2016-2017 award year must still be completed by Sunday, October 1, 2017.
Likewise, just as the annual October 1 due date has not changed, neither have the data elements or definitions applicable to the GE reporting requirement. The data elements and definitions used for reporting last year will remain the same. This seemingly minor point is a favorable one in that it alleviates the need to learn or re-learn new information. Since there are no new data elements or definitions to be assimilated, the experience gained from prior GE reporting submissions should lessen the uncertainties and potential apprehension in reporting.
Suggested Points to Remember
ED tells institutions in the GE EA #107 of some common areas where institutions have been found remiss. As a result, all institutions should remember that:
- GE reporting must only include those students who actually received Title IV aid for attending the GE program for which data is being reported.
- Title IV loan debt (including Federal Perkins Loans) is not private loan debt or institutional loan debt. If an institution includes Title IV loan debt as part of private or institutional debt data, it will result in the GE program’s Title IV loan debt being doubled—as a result of being counted twice. (ED obtains the institution’s Title IV loan debt data directly from NSLDS when it calculates the GE D/E rates.)
- Accuracy is crucial to accurate D/E rates and GE program classification (i.e., passing/zone/failing). Institutions are encouraged to review their data prior to the GE data reporting process. Corrections can, and should, be made as soon as they are discovered. Institutions are reminded that 2016-2017 is not the only year for which data corrections may be made during the GE reporting process. “Any errors in GE data previously reported must be corrected promptly after the errors are discovered.”
- GE Program tracking functionality—originally planned to have been done through ED’s Data Challenges and Appeals Solution (DCAS)—will not yet be implemented for the 2016-2017 award year reporting cycle. Institutions should continue to review and compare data they submitted to the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System, enrollment records submitted to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), and the GE programs listed on their Program Participation Agreement (PPA) to ensure that all appropriate students in all their GE programs are reported, and that the data is accurate.
Submission Methods for GE Reporting
As a reminder, there are three options from which an institution may choose to submit its required GE data:
- the GE online reporting option under the “Enrollment” tab of the NSLDS Professional Access Web site (NSLDSFAP); or
- the GE batch file submission option through the Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG); or,
- by using the NSLDS Gainful Employment Spreadsheet Submittal Format online upload option.
Steps for Upcoming GE Activities – What is Next?
Now that we know that the annual GE Reporting deadline is not changing (as of this writing), one may ask: “What should I be doing now to be ready?”
Ordinarily, it would be suggested that a school review last year’s GE reporting cycle calendar to estimate a schedule of upcoming GE activities and dates for this current year. However, an institution may need to allow for some flexibility in doing such an activity in 2017 since the schedule does not seem to be mirroring last year’s. For example, last year (for the 2016 GE annual reporting) the “Draft” GE Completers List was distributed on June 1 and had to be completed by July 28. That time frame was not repeated this year. ED’s latest response to Senator Dick Durbin pertaining to the initiating step of the 2017 GE Reporting cycle confirms that ED has not yet distributed the 2017 “Draft” GE Completers List, and has not established a timetable for doing so. Therefore, there may be some slight sliding of dates compared to last year.
Even so, there are actions institutions may take to be ready for the necessary steps in the GE Reporting cycle for 2017. Some of these measures may include:
- Read again or, at a minimum, review the latest edition of the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Gainful Employment User Guide available on the “Information for Financial Aid Professionals” (IFAP) Web site.
- Ensure the institution has established a Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG) mailbox designated for receipt of the “GE Completers List” and other GE purposes. If this has not already been done, it may be accomplished by going to the SAIG Enrollment Web site at fsawebenroll.ed.gov. If this SAIG mailbox is not set up and designated for GE purposes by the time NSLDS sends the GE “Draft” Completers List, the institution will only be able to access its GE Completers List—draft and final versions—by requesting it via the NSLDSFAP under its “Reports” tab.
- Report to NSLDS any missing GE Program information and make any necessary corrections to information previously reported. Taking this action will help ensure that the “Draft” GE Completers Lists ED sends are accurate and complete, thereby reducing the number or corrections your institution must make during the 45-day corrections period. “Institutions should pay careful attention to previously reported attendance dates as those dates impact the loan attribution calculations used later in the process for calculating GE Debt-to-Earnings rates and cannot be corrected or challenged later,” after the Completers List is submitted.
- Make sure that the person at your institution who will be responsible for submitting corrections to the GE “Draft” Completers List has user access to the NSLDS Professional Access Web site and that “the user’s NSLDS Online Services access includes Enrollment Update” See last year’s GE EA #75 for more information about this.
- Make certain that when your institution provides updated GE Program information to ED, that you provide a new GE Certification to cover the updated list of GE Programs. “Updates that require a new certification include establishing or re-establishing the eligibility of a program, or changing the name, CIP code, or credential level of a currently-approved GE Program.”
- Determine now which students, if any, in the GE programs will be able to be excluded from the final GE Completers List. This will expedite completion of the list when it is distributed. Remember that there are only 45 days for reviewing and submitting the GE “Draft” Completers List once it is distributed. [See 34 CFR 668.413(b)(8)(iii)(B).] If ED asks for documentation to support the request to exclude a student on the Completers List, the institution will have only three (3) business days to submit the requested documentation. See last year’s GE EA #78 for more information about exclusions, including the chart attached to it, which lists examples of acceptable documentation.
- Review students’ TOTAL GE program costs assessed for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment to ascertain that the institution will be able to appropriately report the TOTAL costs for the entire GE program for a student, not just the costs for the award year. See GE EA # 89 and GE Frequently Asked Questions #R-Q16.
- Establish a schedule to accomplish the above listed actions prior to ED’s release of the GE “Draft” Completers List.
- Designate the individual(s) who will be responsible for:
- the GE “Draft” Completers List review and corrections,
- GE reporting, and
- the alternate earnings appeal survey (if such an appeal is likely to be submitted after the D/E rates are calculated and disseminated). Plan now for how the alternate earnings appeal survey will be conducted. See the Alternative Earnings Survey Best Practices Guide and other guidance concerning the “Recent Graduates Employment and Earnings Survey” (RGEES) under “Resources” on the Gainful Employment Information Page on IFAP.
- Consider a meeting of the institution’s designated responsible individuals to:
- discuss and review what was learned from last year’s annual GE Reporting cycle,
- plan for the upcoming GE Reporting cycle,
- provide adequate training to those involved in the process (e.g., Webinar participation, attendance at training conferences, internal training, etc.).
Following the suggestions listed above will help your institution be prepared for the next steps in the GE cycle this year. While the definite schedule for related GE lists and processes are still up in the air this year, we do know that (as of this date) the due date for GE Reporting will stay the same. The October 1, 2017, due date for reporting of 2016-2017 GE data does add some measure of certainty in your institution’s quest for GE compliance.
 Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #101 – Additional Information on Alternate Earnings Appeals for Debt-to-Earnings Rates and Warnings for Programs with Failing Rates, January 6,2017; U.S. Department of Education.
 Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #105 – Additional Time for Submission of an Alternate Earnings Appeal and to Comply with Gainful Employment (GE) Disclosure Requirements, March 6, 2017; U.S. Department of Education.
 Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #77 – Fulfilling GE Certification Requirements when Updating the E-App, May 26, 2016; U.S. Department of Education. Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #83 – How to Submit Supporting Documentation for Draft Completers List Corrections, July 15, 2016; U.S. Department of Education.
This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered to be giving legal advice.