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

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on December 18, 2020 to reflect extended timeframes in the December 11, 2020 Federal Register. The following COVID-19 flexibilities now apply through the end of the payment period that begins after the date on which the federally declared qualifying emergency related to COVID-19 is rescinded.

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.

In general, the December 11, 2020 Federal Register extends all distance education flexibilities in the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement, the April 3, 2020 Electronic Announcement, and the May 15, 2020 Electronic Announcement through the end of the payment period that begins after the date on which the federally declared qualifying emergency related to COVID-19 is rescinded.

Notes: 

AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.