For-Profit Career Colleges Using Robust Performance Effectiveness Plans (PEP) to Document, Evaluate and Enhance ’Job-Readiness’ and Gainful Employment Outcomes

At the ABHES 11th Annual Conference on Allied Health, Wonderlic representatives attended the Program Effectiveness Plan (PEP) workshop that was presented by Maura Wilson, B.S., M.S.

The purpose of this workshop was to inform participants about PEP standards, elements, process and, most importantly… value.

As you may be aware, ABHES requires that all members develop a PEP for every program, every reporting year.  According to Ms. Wilson, PEPs are structures for gathering and evaluating data that create pathways toward future goals.  They also act as a catalyst for developing strategies to improve learning outcomes and results.   PEPs describe where you have been, where you are and where you are going.”

Over the past 30 years, Wonderlic has worked with thousands of private, post-secondary educators.  We have witnessed the extraordinary strides that they have and continue to make to ensure that their students are not only “job-ready,” but actually employed in a job within their field of study.  Ongoing measurement and improvement of these core outcomes is at the heart of the PEP purpose and process.

Ms. Wilson was quick to point out that private, for-profit career colleges are being held accountable to higher levels of outcome measurement and standards than any other post-secondary educational institutions.  “The PEP is not merely designed to meet these regulatory requirements – it is an ongoing, systematic process for pinpointing improvement opportunities and addressing them.” 

Over the course of four hours, workshop attendees learned how to systematically track and report following PEP student Achievement Indicators (all required):

            Retention Rates

            Credentialing Exam Participation Rates

            Credentialing Exam Pass Rates

            Graduate Placement Rates (in the field)

            Program Survey Participation Rates (students, extern affiliates, graduates,

            employers)

            Program Survey Satisfaction Rates (students, extern affiliates, graduates,

            employers)

On March 14th, three days after this workshop, the Obama Administration released a proposed regulation that addresses “growing concerns about unaffordable levels of loan debt for students enrolled in gainful employment programs by targeting those that are the lowest-performing, while giving all programs the opportunity to improve.”  These regulations would impact roughly 8,000 for-profit programs and 4.5 million people with the OE predicting that “if things don’t change, as many as 25% of these programs will fail.”

According to the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, “…under our proposed rule, programs that don’t pass the two-part accountability metrics -- how much debt former students have relative to their income, and how often they are defaulting -- would eventually become ineligible to provide federal student aid.  Our department has proposed a framework with three different components:  First, certification requirements; second, accountability metrics; and third, public disclosures, greater transparency.  This proposal distinguishes programs that provide high-quality, affordable education and training from those that leave students with poor earnings prospects and high amounts of debt, or which lead to high student loan default rates.  The programs with the worst outcomes would lose eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs more quickly to protect those students and taxpayers, while other poor-performing programs would be given additional time to improve and to better serve their students.”

Regardless of whether this proposed regulation and the debt repayment requirements are implemented as planned, there is little doubt that PEP and PEP processes are effective tools.   Tracking and improving the learning and gainful employment outcomes necessary for graduates to compete for high wage jobs and repay their loans are metrics all for-profit educators need to embrace.

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