HomeHigher EducationHigher Education ResourcesFAFSA delays should put gainful employment on back burner, lawmakers say

FAFSA delays should put gainful employment on back burner, lawmakers say


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Dive Brief:

  • Senators from both sides of the aisle are pushing the U.S. Department of Education to delay implementation of its gainful employment rule amid a rocky release of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • In a Thursday letter, the four legislators urged U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to extend the July 1 deadline for colleges to submit student outcome and financial transparency data. They also asked the Education Department to further ease its verification requirements for colleges’ financial aid offices.
  • This year’s updated FAFSA is intended to simplify the financial aid process, but the glitchy rollout has only made it more challenging, they wrote.

Dive Insight:

The Education Department released the long-awaited final version of its gainful employment rule in September. The regulation requires career programs to prove their students earn more than they owe following graduation, and that at least half outearn state residents with only a high school diploma. Low-performing programs could lose access to federal funds, likely keeping students from enrolling and shutting them down.

Colleges must report gainful employment data to the Education Department by July 1.

Despite this, the agency has no intention of publishing data or taking regulatory action until July 2026, lawmakers said this week. The group — Republican Sens. Roger Marshall (Kansas) and Tommy Tuberville (Alabama), and Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Virginia) and John Hickenlooper (Colorado) — urged Cardona to extend the July deadline, without pushing back the planned 2026 timeline.

“Giving institutions more time to complete this reporting will have no negative impact on students and families in terms of institutional accountability or transparency, but will certainly benefit them by having financial aid administrators focused in these upcoming months on getting their financial aid in order,” they wrote.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In 2020, Congress mandated that the department simplify the notoriously difficult FAFSA simplification to ease the financial aid process for students, families and colleges. The new form, however, wasn’t released until late December, about three months later than usual.

“Thus far, the Department has made the implementation process more onerous and burdensome for all parties,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Department now has the opportunity to course correct and help ease that burden by allowing these flexibilities.”

They are also pushing for the agency to revert to a pandemic-era process that allowed colleges to accept verification materials electronically.

Last month, the Education Department temporarily eased FAFSA verification requirements to help colleges struggling with the abridged timeline. But it should go a step further, the lawmakers said this week.

“Allowing for electronic signatures significantly shortened the timespan for applications to be processed and can be a key policy change to provide students more time to make an informed decision about where they will continue their education,” they wrote.

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.
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