What is Gainful Employment?
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.