4 Ways to Prepare for Gainful Employment and Improve Student Outcomes

Posted by Jim Bittl on 7/16/15 1:00 PM

High school studentsIn October 2014, the U.S. Department of Education announced regulations ensuring career colleges provide career training programs that guide students toward success and protect students from student loan debt that they would be unable to repay. Known as "gainful employment (GE) in a recognized occupation," these regulations hold career colleges accepting federal funds accountable for cutting costs and improving student outcomes.1

Gainful Employment Standards

Gainful employment regulations measure the performance of career colleges using a debt-to-earning metric and program cohort default rate metric. According to the American Council on Education, under the debt-to-earning metric, students who complete a GE program would make, on average, payments of no more than 8 percent of their annual income, or 20 percent of their discretionary income, on student loan debt. Under the program cohort default metric, no more than 30 percent of the students who completed a GE program could default on their student loans.2

To be compliant, career colleges are required to provide high-quality programs and guide students toward success  toward college completion, reasonable financial outcomes and job placement. Career colleges can help students prepare for success with these four solutions that promote positive student outcomes:

1. Financial Education

Provide a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, a consumer tool informing students of how much financial aid they'll receive in grants and scholarships, the amount to borrow in student loans, the difference between private and federal student loans and the expected average student loan payment following graduation.3

Career colleges can also encourage students and parents to research information that GE programs are required to disclose, including the average debt and income of enrolled students, as well as graduation, job replacement and default rates. Encourage students to research and read everything, from program statistics and refund policies to information mailed from a loan holder. Armed with this financial information, students are better prepared to make informed decisions about their academic and professional futures.4

2. Program Options

Invest in students by helping them choose an academic path that will lead to professional and economic payoff. Offer high-quality programs that allow students to experience different career-oriented programs before enrolling and borrowing student loans. For example, for-profit colleges have started to offer free trial periods or orientation "try before you buy" programs, which  allow students to test drive a particular program before fully committing and spending any money, according to the Center for American Progress.5

3. Technical Curriculum

To compete in today's competitive workforce, students need to learn beyond studying traditional textbooks and listening to lectures. College programs must provide opportunities for hands-on learning and real-world experiences to prepare students to perform industry-specific, specialized tasks. Students typically attend career colleges to receive training in areas like nursing, truck driving, culinary arts and auto repair. Set high expectations for these types of career opportunities to ensure students are well-equipped with the adequate skill set to meet workforce needs.6

4. Intervention

In certain circumstances, many students are burdened with student loan debt because they drop out of college. Front loading of grants or a refund policy can help mitigate these costs bestowed upon college non-completers by minimizing the amount of student loans needed at the start of the program. With intervention, administrators can help keep at-risk students in school, increase completion and job placement rates and ultimately improve their qualify of life. Anticipate and identify the signs of a student who's at risk for dropping out. Reach out by helping the student overcome obstacles and stay on course toward graduation.7

Career college training programs often attract nontraditional students from low-income backgrounds.6 These nontraditional students tend to have dependents, work part or full-time while attending school and are over age 24. Obligations beyond school can influence a student's decision to leave school with high student loan debt and yet, no degree. By intervening, school administrators can keep these students on track to graduate and find employment. Also, these individuals possess commitment and resilience in the face of adversity, which are qualities employers look for in hiring candidates.

Ultimately, protecting the student to ensure positive outcomes after graduation is imperative to both school and student success. The gainful employment regulations aim to provide the following student protections:

  • Ensures that graduates of certain programs aren't paying excessive amounts of their forthcoming income on student loan repayments
  • Sets limits on debt-to-income ratios
  • Helps students who incur debt for college receive a quality education, enabling them to find an adequate job and earn a stable enough income that makes debt repayment affordable

By keeping these goals in mind, schools can execute coursework and curriculums that are student-focused and geared toward future success in any endeavor.


Topics: Industry News


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