Generally, in order to be eligible for funding under the Higher Education Act Title IV student assistance programs, an educational program must lead to a degree at a non-profit or public institution or it must prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” Therefore, with very few exceptions, any non-degree program offered by non-profit or public institutions and all educational programs offered at for-profit institutions must lead to gainful employment.

Subpart Q of the Student Assistance General Provisions establishes Debt-to-Earnings rates (D/E rates) to determine whether a gainful employment (GE) program prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. A D/E rate is based on the typical loan debt and earnings of a cohort of the program’s former students who completed the program, usually those who completed during a two-year period concluding two years prior to the D/E rate calculation year. This delay is to account for the ramping up of the students’ earnings upon completion of the program.

Two D/E rates, the Annual Earnings Rate and the Discretionary Income Rate, are calculated for each program as a measure of the ability of program completers to reasonably repay the educational debt incurred for their attendance in the program.

  • For the Annual Earnings Rate, the numerator is the calculated annual loan payment amount– an estimate of the annual loan repayment amount based on the median educational debt of the members of the cohort. The denominator is the higher of the cohort’s mean or median earnings obtained from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • The Discretionary Income Rate uses the same annual loan payment amount in the numerator as the Annual Earnings Rate but the denominator is the higher of the mean or median earnings minus 150% of the poverty guideline.

Annual Earnings Rates of less than or equal to 8% are considered passing rates. Annual Earnings Rates greater than 8% but less than or equal to 12% are zone rates, and Annual Earnings Rates greater than 12% are failing rates. For the Discretionary Income Rate, rates less than or equal to 20% are passing rates, rates greater than 20% but less than or equal to 30% are zone rates, and rates greater than 30% are failing rates.


Title IV Eligible Certificate Programs at John F. Kennedy University

Certificate in Trauma Studies

Entrepreneurship (Printable)

Human Resources
Human Resources (Printable)

Museum Studies
Museum Studies (Printable)

Paralegal (Printable)

Sport Psychology
Sport Psychology(Printable)