How Long Can We Extend a Term Or Payment Period Due To Coronavirus?

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on December 21, 2020 to reflect the December 11, 2020 Federal Register which reaffirmed the following flexibilities for standard term programs through the end of the academic year that includes December 31, 2020 or the end of the academic year that includes the end date for the federally-declared qualifying emergency related to COVID-19, whichever occurs later. This extension was already granted under the June 16, 2020 changes to the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement.

Scenario:
The COVID-19 FAQs attached to the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement indicate that a school can extend the spring term even if it overlaps with a summer term. We're wondering if the spring term can be extended into the regularly scheduled fall term (August/September).

Answer: According to guidance NASFAA has received from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), ED has not set a limit on how long you can extend a term, stating, "We have not limited the extent to which terms may overlap. But at some point, a reasonable person test should apply. Students can reasonably be expected to complete the academic requirements for only so many courses. An institution could, under professional judgment, adjust COA elements to account for expenses associated with a longer term."

According to the COVID-19 FAQs attached to the announcement: "The March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement indicates that, in response to COVID-19, we can offer courses to students on a schedule that would otherwise be considered a non-standard term while continuing to offer Title IV aid using a standard term academic calendar. Can those courses also overlap courses in our summer term without causing our programs to be treated as nonterm programs?

Yes, the Department is extending the flexibility described in the electronic announcement to schedules that would otherwise be nonterm as well; for example, an extended spring term that will overlap with a summer term. If an institution extends the length of a term to respond to COVID-19, causing the term to overlap a subsequent term, in this limited circumstance the institution may continue to consider its terms to be standard terms, allowing both the use of a scheduled academic year (SAY) for Direct Loan funds and Pell Grant Formula 1."

The June 16, 2020 update to the March 5th announcement states: "
The Department is aware that, due to ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 emergency, many institutions have found it necessary to adjust their academic calendars. In recognition of this, we are expanding these flexibilities to include all programs, regardless of whether students are returning from travel abroad programs or have been cancelled out of experiential learning opportunities and extending applicable deadlines. All standard terms will be permitted to overlap with an adjacent term without the program being considered non-term. Additionally, a standard semester or trimester may consist of as few as 13 weeks of instructional time and a standard quarter as few as 9 weeks of instructional time without the program being considered a non-standard term program. It should be noted that any reduction in a program’s defined academic year to less than 30 weeks of instructional time must be specifically approved by the School Participation Division (SPD). Submit your request by email to CaseTeams@ed.gov. This guidance is applicable through the end of the academic year that includes December 31, 2020 or the end date for the COVID-19 Federally declared emergency, whichever occurs later."

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.