Free Web Tool for Accessing the U.S. Department of Education’s “Gainful Employment” Data on Career Training Programs


June 28, 2012 05:40
A new free web tool created by CollegeMeasures.org, a joint venture of the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Matrix Knowledge Group, makes it easier to review the U.S. Department of Education’s “Gainful Employment” data on whether the cost of career training programs at colleges and other institutions complies with federal standards.

On June 26, 2012, the Department released data on career-oriented programs at for-profit colleges, as well as certificate and vocational programs at nonprofit and public institutions. The new web tool, available at www.collegemeasures.org, is organized by state, and allows users to view institutions by name to see if each of their programs complies with federal requirements.

To be eligible for Federal financial aid, the institutions must show that their students have been prepared for gainful employment by meeting at least one of three performance standards – at least 35 percent of students replay their student loans; graduates’ total yearly loan payments are 12 percent or less of their annual income; or the annual loan payments do not exceed 30 percent of a graduate’s discretionary income – the amount available after paying for necessities such as food, shelter and clothing.

“The metrics are the result of legislation aimed at ensuring that students understand their labor market returns relative to the costs of their higher education,” said Mark Schneider, an AIR vice president and former commissioner of the federal National Center for Education Statistics. “Our tool scans the wealth of statistical data released by the U.S. Department of Education and presents it in a handy, easy to understand way.”

“Our goal is to inform public understanding and policymaking in this high stakes process. Programs that do not reach minimum thresholds will, over time, be subject to penalties, including loss of eligibility for federal funding,” said Schneider.

“The massive amount of data released by the Education Department is valuable, but can be difficult to review if you aren’t a statistician or researcher. We are offering a user-friendly way of accessing the information so policymakers, journalists and the general public can use it,” Schneider said.

Here are some highlights from the “Gainful Employment” data: 

  • Of the three federal thresholds, the easiest to pass was the Annual Income to Debt ratio – 91% of programs passed on this metric, as opposed to 61% for Loan Repayment Rate and just 47% for the Discretionary Income Debt to Earnings Ratio. 
  • Nationally, 5% (174) of the Gainful Employment programs failed all thresholds for the three metrics. Another 59% (2,187) of programs failed one or two metrics while 36% (1,310) passing all three metrics. 
  • One of the most successful states is Connecticut – none, of its 52 programs fail all metrics, and 77% of its programs pass all thresholds, the second-highest percentage in the nation. 
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama has two of 27 programs passing all metrics, with seven programs (19% of their total) failing all thresholds. • Only 18 schools had a 100% failure rate, and many of those offered only one program. Sanford-Brown College in McLean, VA, had all three of its programs fail. 
  • The largest institution with a ‘perfect record’ was Grand Canyon University, in Phoenix, AZ. All twelve of its programs pass all thresholds. Over half of its programs were education related. 
  • The field of study with the worst performance was Homeland Security/Law Enforcement, which had 24% of its programs failing all three metrics. The next two lowest performers were Visual and Performing Arts (15% failure) and Communications Technologies (15% failure). 
  • Numerous areas of study had a ‘perfect record’ of no failing programs, with the largest being Mechanic and Repair Technologies (159 programs), and Construction Trades (60 programs).

Since institutions have not had an opportunity to review the data, they are invited to submit additional information to CollegeMeasures.org by contacting ge@collegemeasures.org. The submissions will be posted alongside their institution’s Informational Rates.

The College Measures partnership between AIR and Matrix Knowledge Group uses data to drive improvement in higher education outcomes in the United States.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.