Late on Friday, April 3, the Department posted updated guidance for institutions that recognizes the regulatory flexibilities authorized by Congress in the CARES Act, but also addresses other areas including Clery Act, Distance Education, Foreign Schools and FERPA, among other issues relevant to the COVID-19 interruption. The guidance is effective through June 30, 2020 unless otherwise extended by the Department. The Higher Education Relief Fund portion of CARES ACT is not addressed and will be the subject of future guidance.
– April 03, 2020
(OPE Announcements) Subject: UPDATED Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The CARES Act appropriates $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund available through September 30, 2021, to assist governors and postsecondary institutions with preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19. The Act also includes important student relief and temporary regulatory flexibilities.
For more information, please visit the Duane Morris website.
In response to pressing questions from institutions, on March 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) offered guidance permitting temporary flexibility and clarifying how higher education institutions whose activities are impacted by COVID-19 can continue to comply with Title IV of the Higher Education Act and its implementing regulations (“Title IV”) . You can read our client alert on the guidance here.
On March 20, 2020, the Department updated the announcement to include answers to frequently asked questions. The guidance provided by the Department in the FAQ is summarized below. Institutions should consult the guidance directly for additional information about any of the below topics. Continue reading U.S. Department of Education Issues Additional COVID-19 Guidance in Form of FAQs
Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order requires “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” The Order exempted “16 critical infrastructure sectors whose . . . incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, economic security, public health, or any combination thereof.”
We all intuitively know academic institutions fit this description, and the Order agrees: “Government Facilities” are included as one of those 16 critical infrastructure sectors, and the cited-to guidance in the Order confirms that this includes an “Education Facilities Subsector [that] covers pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, institutions of higher education, and business and trade schools. The subsector includes facilities that are owned by both government and private sector entities.”
The State Public Health Officer published a list confirming who qualifies as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers,” which includes two areas relevant for educational institutions: Continue reading California Education Institutions Exempted from Statewide Stay-at-Home Order
As the coronavirus continues to impact jobs and financial stability across the nation, President Trump announced Friday that he will allow federal student loan borrowers to take a break from making their monthly payments without penalty for at least the next two months. The Education Department also announced that it would set the interest rates on all federally held student loans to zero until at least May 12.
To obtain the reprieve, borrowers must make a request of their loan servicers over the phone or online. However, the 60-day suspension will automatically apply to those who are already more than a month behind on their payments. With more than 3.2 million federally-held student loans over a month delinquent and another 7.7 million in default, according to the Education Department’s most recent quarterly data, the Department hopes that the option will allow borrowers to focus on health and safety during these anxious times. Continue reading Federal Student Loan Borrowers Catch a Break Amidst Coronavirus Chaos
As with all crises, this pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation that is forcing schools to quickly implement new policies and practices, often operating on limited information and without the usual procedural safeguards and vetting. Such an environment creates a risk of the unintended consequences of those new policies/procedures being overlooked, resulting in potentially discriminatory effects to students.
Recognizing this risk, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights published guidance on March 16, 2020, reminding schools that students’ civil rights must be safeguarded during responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. OCR’s guidance encourages schools to take measures to protect against COVID-19, but to do so in a manner that is free from discrimination and continues to accommodate people with disabilities.
The Department of Education focused on a few key areas as examples of potential pitfalls: Continue reading Department of Education Issues Guidance on Safeguarding Civil Rights During COVID-19 Pandemic
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is seeking approval to pay $1,000,000+ in attorneys’ fees to settle a putative class action alleging MIT’s website was inaccessible to people with hearing difficulties. See Nat’l Assoc. of the Deaf et al. v. Mass. Inst. of Tech., 3:15-cv-30024-KAR (D. Mass. filed Feb. 12, 2015). This comes just months after Harvard University preliminarily settled a nearly identical lawsuit for $1.575 million. See Nat’l Assoc. of the Deaf et al. v. Harvard Univ., 3:15-cv-30023-KAR (D. Mass. filed Feb. 12, 2015). Neither university admits liability or wrongdoing in the settlement agreements.
The complaints alleged each university lacked adequate closed captioning of videos and audio tracks on publicly availably websites in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. They alleged the lack of captioning hindered the ability of individuals with hearing difficulties to fully and equally enjoy the services and goods offered to the public via the websites. The complaints alleged that closed captioning of such content was a reasonable accommodation. After motion practice, the courts agreed these allegations constituted viable claims under Section 504 and the ADA, and the parties proceeded into discovery before settling.
In the settlement agreements, the universities promised to: Continue reading Million Dollar Settlements of Closed Captioning Website Accessibility Lawsuits Highlight Need for Dual Approach
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that institutions of higher education consider postponing or canceling upcoming study abroad or foreign exchange programs. However, this advice has raised pressing questions about how this would affect Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) federal financial aid and a student’s ability to finish the term if a program is interrupted or canceled. In response, on March 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) offered guidance permitting temporary flexibility and clarifying how higher education institutions can continue to comply with Title IV regulations for students whose activities are impacted by COVID-19.
View the full Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.
On February 10, 2020, California’s Office of the Attorney General proposed a modified version of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) regulations first published on October 11, 2019. The initial proposed regulations were summarized in our previous Alert.
The deadline for providing comments on the modified proposed regulations is February 25, 2020. This Alert summarizes some of the most significant proposed changes to the regulations. A more detailed summary, including new practical CCPA examples, can be found in our blog posts regarding changes to: (1) definitions and consumer notice requirements; (2) requirements for consumer requests and verification; and (3) requirements for service providers, authorized agents, minors, nondiscrimination and calculating the value of consumer data.
View the full Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.
On November 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education published a final rule regarding state authorization. The regulation goes into effect on July 1, 2020 and places new disclosure requirements for professional licensure programs that apply to both online and on-ground programs.
Specifically, 34 C.F.R. § 668.43(a)(5)(v) (Institutional Information), requires institutions offering programs leading to occupational licensure (such as cosmetology, vocational nursing, etc.), to determine whether the program curriculum meets educational requirements for licensure or certification in each state. The institution must list (a) states for which the program curriculum meets educational requirements; (b) states for which the program curriculum does not meet education requirement; (c), and states for which the institution has not made a determination. Please note that the regulation applies to program curriculum,(not the ability to transfer a license to another state after the student obtains a license in the state the institution is located in.
Institutions should do the research to make affirmative or negative determinations as to whether the program curriculum meets educational requirements for licensure or certification. However, these determinations do not need to be fully completed by July 1, 2020. Until the institution is able to make the state-by-state determinations, the states that the institution does not operate in should be listed as a state for which the institution has not made a determination.