Timetable Shift on ‘Gainful Employment’

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce today that it will postpone the publication of some of its final regulatory language on rules aimed at ensuring that graduates of vocational programs find "gainful employment," which would reduce the time that for-profit colleges and other institutions affected by the rules would have to prepare for them, but not change when they would take effect.

Speculation that the department might be weighing a delay intensified Wednesday, after Education Secretary Arne Duncan responded to a question about already swirling rumors by saying that department officials were "keeping [their] options open." They heated up even more on Thursday after an industry analyst said in a report to investors that the department would announce a delay later that day. Justin Hamilton, a department spokesman, confirmed that the department would today "announce the timeline for publishing final regulations around higher education program integrity," but declined to offer any more details.

All signals indicated that the department’s “timeline” for release of its final regulations detailing the debt service-to-income and repayment rate metrics that make up the substance of the gainful employment rules will push their release until after Nov. 1, the deadline for the department to issue any regulations that would take effect on July 1, 2011. But, under the timeline set by the department in its July notice of proposed rule making, those metrics were to be phased into use beginning July 1, 2012.

As long as the final rules are published by any point before Nov. 1, 2011, the rules would still take effect in mid-2012.

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