AskRegs Update: Is ED Allowing Accreditors to Waive Distance Education Review Requirements for Study Abroad Students Who Never Began Attendance Due to Coronavirus?

Is ED Allowing Accreditors to Waive Distance Education Review Requirements for Study Abroad Students Who Never Began Attendance Due to Coronavirus?

This AskRegs Q&A has been updated to include the extension of distance education flexibilities to any payment period or term that overlaps March 5, 2020, or that begins between March 5, 2020, and December 30, 2020.

Scenario: In the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) states: “We are also permitting accreditors to waive their distance education review requirements for institutions working to accommodate students whose enrollment is otherwise interrupted as a result of COVID-19. We are currently limiting that permission to distance learning opportunities developed for the purpose of serving students who were already in attendance, but whose attendance was interrupted by COVID-19.” We are wondering about the “already in attendance” piece. There are students who never began attendance this term because their study abroad program was cancelled at the last minute, and schools would like to be able to offer them distance education/online classes.

Answer: Yes. According to guidance NASFAA has received from ED, it is ED's intention to also extend all flexibilities related to distance education, including accreditation agency waivers of approval processes, to students who never began their study abroad programs because of COVID-19.

Note: The May 15, 2020 Electronic Announcement further extends the distance education flexibilities, stating:

"We are aware of the need for institutions to plan how they will offer instruction for upcoming periods of enrollment. Many institutions have informed us of their intent to offer both the summer and fall terms using distance education. To provide the necessary flexibility for institutions to make timely decisions, we are expanding the broad approval for the use of distance education as provided in the April 3, 2020, EA to include payment periods that overlap March 5, 2020, or that begin on or between March 5, 2020, and December 31, 2020."

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Publication Date: 3/20/2020

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