Proposed gainful employment rules would not withhold federal funds until two-thirds of students in an individual program were not paying down the principal on their education loans and graduates' debts reached more than 30 percent of their discretionary income and more than 12 percent of their total income.

Academic programs in which 56 to 65 percent of students were delinquent on loans could still receive federal money, but would face enrollment limits and would need to warn new students of their situation.

Schools where 55 percent of students were delinquent or whose debt-to-income ratios fell below 20 percent of discretionary income or below 8 percent of total income would still receive federal funds.

The Department of Education estimates that the new rules could eliminate 5 percent of for-profit colleges from federal funding. Another 55 percent would have to warn students about high debt-to-income ratios.