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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

What is Gainful Employment?

Published July 11, 2010 2:03 PM by Glen McDaniel

A controversy that has largely gone unnoticed by the majority of clinical laboratorians has been brewing between academia and the US Department of Education (DOE) for months now. It involves essentially whether certain for profit schools should be eligible for participation in the federal student loan (Title IV) program.

Watching late night television one sees multiple ads for a variety of clinical or paraprofessional programs, most ending with the claim "eligible for student loan."  These are mostly non-degree programs lasting less than 2 years in length.

The question being asked by the DOE is whether many of these programs are graduating students who cannot realistically repay their loans in a reasonable time.  That is where the definition of "gainful employment" comes in.

To be eligible to participate in the federal student-aid programs, providers of vocational programs are required to prepare students for "gainful employment in a recognized occupation." But federal regulations do not define "gainful employment"

 Under the new proposal a vocational-training program would comply with the gainful-employment rule if a graduate's annual debt payment, based on a 10-year repayment schedule, did not exceed 8 percent of the expected earnings of the occupation for which the student is being prepared.

Other than the students there are other stakeholders who have weighed in. These include educators, owners of proprietary for profit schools, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and American Medical Technologists (AMT).

Why AMT? Well, in addition to medical technologists, AMT certifies other health care professionals, many of whom do not require a degree e.g. medical lab technicians, lab assistants, medical assistants, phlebotomists, dental assistants and so on.

AMT recently expressed their concern in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Some see this interpretation as being arbitrary and a move which will further exacerbate the shortage of healthcare professionals. Others see this as the fiscally responsible thing to. They argue: why give federal (or federally guaranteed) funds to individuals who cannot realistically be expected  to repay such funds in a reasonable time without major hardship?

This one should be interesting to watch.


Mary you are right. The government shoudl be interested in having more trained healthcare professionals. it seems they should not be trying to find ways not to give student loans. Instead they should be working to find ways to make it easier to pay off loans.

Jonas T. MT July 29, 2010 5:10 PM
Atlanta GA

Perhaps debt repayment policy could be revised for certain vocational programs. Empowering those who desire to become productive through education strengthens our society.

Mary , laboratory - MT/CT, pathology lab July 21, 2010 12:30 PM
Roswell NM

You know for years the government has wondered if CLS is a real profession. I recall when the National Labor Board finally after many years ruled that we are a true profession because we used independent judgment. Before that we were just a job.

This doesnt really affect the profession much. They are not saying CLS is not gainful employment. They are saying that a nondegree course is different than a degree profession. No?

Moses MT (ASCP) July 17, 2010 3:14 PM
Rochester NY

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