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A new rule created by the Department of Education could greatly affect massage schools’ ability to offer federal financial aid to students. The Financial Value Transparency and Gainful-Employment rule seeks to balance financial aid debt to post-graduation earnings.

Beginning July 1, 2024, schools that offer financial aid will need to reduce their hours to the number required by their state in order to be able to continue offering federal financial aid.

Beginning in 2026, students will need to sign a disclosure agreement provided by their school, regarding debt and income. Both for-profit schools and non-degree programs will be required to show that graduates are able to pay back financial aid debt and that graduates have a higher income than do adults in their state who possess only a high school education. Not meeting either of these standards in two consecutive years could result in program losing access to federal financial aid.

The alternative to losing the ability to offer federal financial aidreducing hours down to what the state requiresis not a simple process, according to Alliance for Massage Therapy Education President Kim Alexander. For a small, proprietary school, she told MASSAGE Magazine, staff would need to either use time and resources to determine how to cut the program’s hours or hire a consultant to do so.

“I can empathize greatly with the people that are in this situation that, of course, don’t want to see their programs not be eligible for funding,” Alexander said.

The rule was entered into the Federal Register in late October.

Career Education Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 1,100 campuses and affiliate members across North America, issued the following statement about the rule: “Once again, the Department has rushed the process, overlooking critical issues, to hastily implement and weaponize a final Gainful Employment rule against for-profit institutions.

“The Department continues to put its thumb on the scale to circumvent established procedures and advance a partisan rule that fails to protect the vast majority of students,” said CECU’s President and CEO, Dr. Jason Altmire. “CECU has continually advocated for a rule that ensures the protection of all students and maintains equal accountability for public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutionsan objective this rule does not achieve.”

Advocates for the rule say it will result in better-informed students who enter educational programs with an understanding of what they will earn post-graduation and how they will pay off student loansand, who will receive a better return on their investment.

In June 2023 MASSAGE Magazine reported on the rule when it was proposed.

About the Author

Karen Menehan

Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor-in-chief for print and digital. Her articles for this publication include “Massage Therapist Jobs: The Employed Practitioner,” published in the Sept. 2022 issue of MASSAGE Magazine, a first-place winner of a 2023 FOLIO: Eddie Award for magazine editorial excellence, full issue; and “This is How Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practices Make Business Better,” published in in the August 2021 issue of MASSAGE Magazine, a first-place winner of a 2022 FOLIO: Eddie Award for editorial excellence, full issue.