Temporary Expanded SNAP Benefits for College Students

Expanding access to postsecondary education for low income students includes more than just assistance with tuition and fees. Many low income students also need help with daily food costs while they pursue higher education. That need can adversely impact academic progress if not addressed. Needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic and high unemployment, and impact students whether they study on ground or online. Food insecurity among college students is gaining more attention, with the opening of college food pantries and other community support initiatives. The federal government is also stepping up. The U.S. Department of Education, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has issued new guidance to postsecondary institutions to raise awareness about temporarily expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for students and urges institutions to make students aware of this resource. The expansion of benefits will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted. The new guidance can be found here: https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/022321SNAPbenefitseligiblestudsCOVID19pandemic

 

FY 2018 Draft Cohort Default Rates Released to Title IV Participating Institutions of Higher Education – Time Frame for Appeal Begins March 2, 2021

On Feb. 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education distributed the FY 2018 draft cohort default rate (CDR) notification packages to all eligible domestic and foreign schools for those schools enrolled in the Electronic Cohort Default Rate (eCDR) notification process. Any school not enrolled in eCDR may download their cohort default rates and accompanying Loan Record Detail Reports from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) via the NSLDS Professional Access website.

The time frame for appealing the FY 2018 draft cohort default rates under 34 C.F.R Part 668, Subpart N begins on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 for all schools.

Under the Title IV financial responsibility regulations at 34 C.F.R. 668.171(d)(6), the Department has discretion to determine that a Title IV institution is not able to meet its financial or administrative Title IV obligations (which can lead to a letter of credit requirement or other potential adverse action) if the institution’s two most recent official cohort default rates are 30 percent or greater and such circumstance is likely to have a material adverse effect on the financial condition of the institution, unless the institution has a challenge, adjustment or appeal pending or successfully finalized.

Note that any school that did not have a borrower in repayment, during the current or any of the past cohort default rate periods, will not receive a FY 2018 draft cohort default rate notification package. These schools are considered to have no cohort default rate data and no cohort default rate.

https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/022221FY2018DraftCDRDistributedFeb222021

 

Biden Issues Executive Order Regarding Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

As anticipated by our prior post, President Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office addressing gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. In doing so, President Biden is taking aim at dismantling the recently published Department of Education’s internal memorandum, which concluded Title IX’s protections against discrimination on the basis of “sex” do not generally extend to sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the order, Continue reading “Biden Issues Executive Order Regarding Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination”

In One of Its Final Actions, Department of Education Releases Internal Memorandum Analyzing Title IX as it Relates to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On January 8, 2021, the Department of Education (“Department”) publicly released a 13-page internal memorandum from the Department’s Office of the General Counsel to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights that sets forth an analysis of Title IX as it relates to sexual orientation and transgender status.  Specifically, the memo addresses the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton Cnty., 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020) on Title IX. Bostock held that the definition of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including transgender status.

The memo’s analysis focuses on 5 questions:

      1. Does the Bostock decision construe Title IX?
      2. Does Bostock affect the meaning of “sex” as that term is used in Title IX?
      3. How should OCR view allegations that a recipient targets individuals for discriminatory treatment on the basis of a person’s transgender status or homosexuality?
      4. After Bostock, how should OCR view allegations of employment discrimination or sexual harassment based on an individual’s transgender status or homosexuality?
      5. How does the Department interpret Title IX and its implementing regulations in light of Bostock with respect to athletics, intimate facilities, religious exemptions, and other sex-segregated programs or activities addressed under Title IX and its regulations?

The memo concludes Continue reading “In One of Its Final Actions, Department of Education Releases Internal Memorandum Analyzing Title IX as it Relates to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”

Department of Education releases new Clery Act Appendix; Rescinds 2016 Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting

On October 9, 2020, the Department of Education (the “Department”) posted an Electronic Announcement announcing the rescission of and replacement for the 2016 Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. Through this announcement, the Department is rescinding the guidance in the 2016 Handbook and replacing it with a Clery Act Appendix to the Federal Student Aid (“FSA”) Handbook. The electronic announcement identifies and explains the significant changes between the 2016 edition and the new Clery-related Appendix. The Department anticipates that this rescission and publication of the new Appendix will help simplify Clery compliance.  Continue reading “Department of Education releases new Clery Act Appendix; Rescinds 2016 Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting”

As New Title IX Rule Goes into Effect, Department Launches New Title IX Website

The new Title IX Rule is now in effect as of today (Aug. 14, 2020). As such, all K-12 and postsecondary academic institutions that receive Title IV funding are required to have Title IX policies and procedures in place and to be implementing them going forward.  As our readers will remember from our prior in-depth Client Alert, the new Rule governs employees and students, can include incidents on and off campus, requires institutions to adopt a formal process for investigating and resolving complaints (including a live hearing with cross-examination), and an appeals process.

Concurrent with the new Title IX Rule going into effect today, the Department of Education launched a Title IX website.  The website is a repository Continue reading “As New Title IX Rule Goes into Effect, Department Launches New Title IX Website”

U.S. Department of Education Extends Clery Act Annual Security Reporting to December 31

In a welcome bit of regulatory relief at time when institutions of higher education are working to comply with a new Title IX rule by August 14, 2020, the Department announced on July 10 that it is extending the date for institutions to distribute their Annual Security Report (ASR) and Annual Fire Safety Report (AFSR) to required recipients to December 31, 2020 (from October 1). The Department does encourage institutions to distribute their reports on the normal schedule if possible.

In addition, the electronic annual crime and fire statistics survey will now be open now from November 18, 2020 through January 14, 2021 for transmission of data to the Department.

The Department states in its July 10 announcement that it “encourages schools to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their students and employees, to continue to act in accordance with their campus safety policies and procedures, and to advise the campus community about changing conditions that may affect their safety or any major changes to safety policies or practices.” Institutions continuing or returning to partial or full on ground operations should keep in mind that they are still obligated to comply with their published campus safety policies and procedures, including with regard to emergency notifications and crime statistics collection and reporting. Any changes to published procedures should be communicated to the campus community.

https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/040320UPDATEDGuidanceInterruptStudyRelCOVID19

 

U.S. Department of Education Releases Additional CARES Act and COVID-19 Guidance

On March 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education published additional guidance for postsecondary institutions extending and clarifying regulatory flexibilities contained in the CARES Act and related to COVID-19.

Key components of the guidance include:

  • Extension of the time frame for authorization by the Department of temporary distance education approval for previously on-ground programs to include payment periods that overlap March 5, 2020, or that begin on or between March 5, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
  • Waiver of the Department’s requirement that an institution offering at least 50% of a program by distance education to be accredited for distance education by an accrediting agency that has distance education in the scope of its recognition. The waiver is effective for payment periods that begin on or before December 31, 2020.
  • Six month extension of the Title IV financial statement and compliance audit deadlines.

The guidance also includes important new information concerning:

  • Accreditation site visit extension flexibilities and requirements.
  • Extension by six months of the “materially complete application” requirements following a Title IV change of ownership and control to allow additional time for the institution to remain TItle IV certified while secure state and accreditor approvals as well as the audited same day balance sheet.
  • Waiver of MCAT score requirement for foreign graduate medical school admissions for students admitted to medical school during an admissions year in which the MCAT was unavailable to students for some period of time during that year due to COVID-19 related interruptions.
  • Additional flexibilities concerning verification of high school (or equivalent) completion status that applies until December 31, 2020, for both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 award years.
  • Treatment of the PPP loan forgiveness amount in calculating the institution’s composite score.
  • Treatment of student workers when determining the number of employees for PPP loan eligibility.
  • Tax treatment of HEERF and emergency financial aid grants to students.
  • Clarifications  regarding Campus-Based Waivers/Reallocation and FSEOG Emergency Aid Grants.
  • Clarifications regarding Leaves of Absence (LOA) flexibilities.
  • Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) guidance and processing detail.
  • Clarifications regarding Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) flexibilities.
  • Clarifications regarding Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program flexibilities.

Institutions should carefully analyze the full guidance document and related Q&A , available here: https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/051520UPDATEDGuidanceInterruptStudyRelCOVID19May2020

 

 

OCR Provides Practical Pointers for Postsecondary Institutions to Meet Civil Rights Obligations In Distance Learning Environments

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recently issued a FAQ in its continuing effort to address civil rights issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The new guidance focused on disability accommodations, Title IX, and harassment issues.

The overall message was to again remind postsecondary institutions to “stay the course” with their civil rights obligations.  Institutions must continue to engage in the interactive process and provide disability accommodations that do not fundamentally alter the academic program and/or are undue burdens.  Institutions must also continue to receive, investigate, and resolve harassment complaints.  Institutions should adapt their policies to the new distance learning environment, and, if they do, they must inform students, faculty, and staff of any changes.

OCR also offered practical advice for how institutions can meet their civil rights obligations (and take advantage of new technology in doing so):  Continue reading “OCR Provides Practical Pointers for Postsecondary Institutions to Meet Civil Rights Obligations In Distance Learning Environments”

Title IX Final Rule

On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued the Final Rule on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) regulations. These are the first comprehensive regulations issued under Title IX since 1975.

The Final Rule goes into effect on Friday, August 14, 2020.  Its provisions will significantly impact K-12 school districts, colleges, and universities. The changes include: a definition for sexual harassment, requirement for publication of Title IX materials, triggers for an institution’s legal obligation to respond and investigate, and a requirement that institutions conduct courtroom-like hearings. Continue reading “Title IX Final Rule”