GE, State Authorization, Campus Safety Rules Take Effect

Several federal regulations, years in the making, took effect on Wednesday. Institutions must now comply with new rules from the U.S. Education Department governing gainful employment, state authorization, and campus safety, Politico reported. In addition, new student loan borrowers will begin to see lower interest rates for the 2015-16 academic year as of July 1. The rate for undergraduate Direct Loans fell from 4.66 percent to 4.29 percent, for graduate and professional Direct Loan dropped from 6.21 percent to 5.84 percent, and for Direct PLUS Loans decreased from 7.21 percent to 6.84 percent.

The department’s gainful employment rules went live on Wednesday, requiring for-profit and community colleges to begin reporting outcomes data. Under the new regulations, a program would be considered to lead to gainful employment if the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income, or 8 percent of his or her total earnings.

The agency plans to release the first program results under the regulations in late 2016 or early 2017, with warning disclosures for failing programs. Such programs would not become ineligible for federal financial aid until late 2017 or early 2018, after the department issues its second year of results.

Based on a one-year snapshot of results based on past data, officials estimate that 1,400 programs that enroll 840,000 students would fail the debt-to-earnings ratio metrics. Fully 99 percent of those programs are at for-profits.

"Many institutions have made changes in recent years, and additionally, the rule will allow all programs the time and opportunity to improve," department spokeswoman Denise Horn told Politico.

State authorization regulations for colleges that have a physical presence in different states also took effect this week. The department issued a Dear Colleague Letter in June, ahead of the implementation date, to remind institutions of requirements for compliance. Though the new rules are tied to federal financial aid eligibility, few colleges will face an immediate cutoff of student aid even if they have not been authorized under a policy deemed adequate by the agency, the letter said.

Institutions in states still putting in place a sufficient process for oversight and approval "may have their current status continued for a reasonable period." Colleges that are denied authorization by their states "will have their status resolved when the institutions are reviewed by the department staff in the ordinary course of business."

Additionally, new rules codifying changes to the Clery Act are effective as of Wednesday. The Campus SaVE Act provisions, part of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, were finalized by a negotiated rulemaking committee last year. Under the new protections, institutions are required to compile statistics for incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and to include certain policies, procedures, and programs pertaining to these incidents in their annual security reports. Colleges must also strengthen procedures for notifying victims of their legal rights and campus policies for preventing and addressing sexual assault.


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