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July 03, 2020

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Regulatory Agency and Selected Accreditor Resources for Higher Education Institutions Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic

Higher education institutions worldwide are striving to meet their students’ educational needs while working to reduce and decelerate the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. In view of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities, many educational institutions have moved to online instruction, extended their spring break, shortened or shifted their academic year, or have otherwise departed from the normal course of business. 

Because of the highly regulated nature of higher education, it is important that institutions remain mindful of the statutory and regulatory constraints that continue to apply at this time. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has provided updated guidance regarding the administration of the Title IV federal student aid programs, study abroad, stimulus funds provided under the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other matters. Institutional accreditors are providing guidance regarding the transition to online coursework and are canceling upcoming site visits. Programmatic accreditors are also providing guidance relating to this public health emergency, including with respect to clinical coursework, which is often the capstone to programs in the health professions. (For instance, certain programmatic accreditors are not changing clinical requirements at all, while others are providing limited flexibility in specific circumstances.) Other federal regulators are providing guidance on other key matters, such as the availability of veterans’ education benefits and the status of international students whose U.S. institutions are taking emergency measures to address COVID-19. Higher education institutions are therefore advised to keep abreast of the latest guidance provided by federal and state regulators, as well as by their institutional and programmatic accrediting bodies, during this protracted period of non-standard operations.

Below, please find links to the most recent guidance provided by ED and other pertinent federal agencies, institutional accreditors, certain programmatic accreditors, and certain interstate commissions and higher education organizations with respect to COVID-19 and related exigencies. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Department of Education 

  • COVID-19 ("Coronavirus") Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel, guidance and other materials regarding emergency regulatory waivers and policy changes: See guidance here.

  • CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund (General Information): See guidance here.

  • March 11 Dear CPA Letter CPA-20-01, Site Visit Exemption During COVID-19 Outbreak: See guidance here.

  • May 6 Electronic Announcement Regarding Higher Education Emergency Relief Reporting - Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students: See guidance here.

  • May 15 Updated Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus: See guidance here.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • March 12 Notice (via Facebook post) — COVID-19 Virus Concerns and How It Affects Your Benefits: See guidance here. 

  • March 23 Notice (via VA Official Blog post) — Veterans’ GI Bill Benefits to Continue During COVID-19 Pandemic: See guidance here.

  • Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Public Health Information for Veterans: See guidance here.

  • COVID-19 FAQs for School Certifying Officials: See guidance here.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)

Accrediting Agencies

Select Institutional Accreditors

Selected Programmatic Accreditors

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES): See guidance here.

  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): See guidance here.

  • American Bar Association Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (ABA): See guidance here.

  • American Occupational Therapy Association, Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (AOTA-ACOTE): See guidance here.

  • American Physical Therapy Association, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (APTA-CAPTE): See guidance here.

  • Commission on Dental Accreditation, American Dental Association (CODA): See guidance here.

  • Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME): See guidance here

Interstate Commissions and Higher Education Organizations

© 2020 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 147

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About this Author

John Przypyszny, Drinker Biddle Law Firm, Public Education Attorney
Partner

John R. Przypyszny counsels institutions of higher education, education companies as well as accrediting agencies on the broad range of legal issues and education law related issues that impact their institutions and businesses on a day-to-day basis. He advises clients on education law matters involving the U.S. Department of Education, accrediting bodies, state agencies and other government regulators. He also has extensive experience advising institutions of higher education on the statutory and regulatory requirements of federal student financial aid...

(202) 842-8858
Jonathan Tarnow, Education and Government affairs lawyer, Drinker Biddle
Partner

Jonathan D. Tarnow advises clients on a wide range of education law matters involving the U.S. Department of Education, accrediting bodies, state agencies and other government regulators. He has extensive experience advising public, non-profit and proprietary institutions of higher education on the statutory and regulatory requirements of federal student financial aid programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, and has represented institutions in Title IV compliance reviews and audits, including administrative hearings and appeals related to findings of non-compliance. Jonathan is a partner in the firm's Government and Regulatory Affairs Group and a member of the Education Team and the Privacy and Data Security Team.

He frequently represents private equity funds, private investors, publicly traded and privately held education companies, and financial institutions that serve postsecondary educational institutions on transactions in the education sector. This includes purchases and sales of institutions or their assets, conversions of private institutions from proprietary to non-profit status, credit facilities to support acquisitions or ongoing operations, and other complex transactions involving colleges and universities.

(202) 354-1357
Cindy Irani, Regulations attorney, Drinker Biddle
Associate

Cindy Irani counsels clients in a variety of industries including education, financial services, health care and telecommunications and is experienced in education law, political law and government contracts law.

Cindy has experience dealing with issues pertaining to the federal Higher Education Act, state educational licensing laws and the accreditation of institutions of higher education. She helps advise nonprofit and for-profit educational institutions, education companies and private investors on complex transactions,...

312-569-1052
Sarah Pheasant, Education and Compliance Lawyer, Drinker Biddle
Associate

Sarah L. Pheasant advises clients on various aspects of education law and regulatory compliance, including issues pertaining to the Higher Education Act, Title IV federal student aid programs, state educational licensing laws and the accreditation of postsecondary institutions. She has helped to advise non-profit and for-profit educational institutions and private investors on complex transactions, including changes of ownership involving institutions of higher education.

Before joining Drinker Biddle, Sarah handled a diverse range of litigation,...

(202) 230-5675