According to reports, the Department of Education will soon announce its plans for a new negotiated rulemaking initiative to address a number of topics, including gainful employment.
Last month, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, upheld the administration's power to enact the gainful employment rule, but found two defects and blocked the administration from enforcing it.
That was the second time in less than a year that Contreras shot down gainful employment. In his initial ruling last June, Contreras wrote that the department had failed to adequately justify the requirement that at least 35 percent of a program’s graduates are actively repaying their loans.
Career college leaders have opposed gainful employment regulations because they believe the rules unfairly single out one sector of higher education.
Through the negotiated rulemaking process, a government agency develops a proposed rule by using a neutral facilitator and a balanced negotiating committee composed of representatives of all interests that the rule will affect, including the rulemaking agency itself.
An initial report from BMO Capital Markets notes that while a May 2012 announcement stated that the department would use negotiated rulemaking to focus on such issues as the use of debit cards or other banking mechanisms to disburse Title IV funds, the upcoming announcement expands the focus. These additional topics involve cash management matters, state authorization, clock to credit hour conversion, gainful employment, campus safety and security reporting and the definition of "adverse credit" for the PLUS program.
BMO's report states that the department will soon announce other negotiated rulemaking committees to address access to, and the affordability of, higher education and possible steps to improve the quality of higher education and to better encourage students to complete their education. Public hearings will be scheduled in May with written comments due by May 30.