Must the School Still Meet the July 1, 2020 State Authorization Requirements If It Moved Classes Online Due To COVID-19?

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on January 6, 2021 to provide clarification and reflect extended timeframes in the December 11, 2020 Federal RegisterThe 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payment period that begins after the date on which the federally declared qualifying emergency related to COVID-19 is rescinded.

No and yes. Even though certain state authorization changes to 34 CFR 600.9(c) went into effect on July 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) waived ED's state authorization requirements for schools, such as those that moved classes from ground-based to online instruction due to COVID-19. However, ED did not waive applicable state requirements. And, the July 1, 2020 changes to the consumer information requirements related to state authorization and distance education still apply.

The following is from the December 11, 2020 Federal Register:

"Section 600.9(c) requires IHEs to obtain State authorization to provide postsecondary educational programs through distance education. The Secretary is waiving this requirement for payment periods that overlap March 5, 2020, or begin after March 5, 2020, through the end of the payment period that begins after the date on which the Federally-declared national emergency related to COVID-19 is rescinded.

This waiver applies only to the Department’s requirements; IHEs will need to determine whether the distance education being provided meets the applicable State requirements.

The Secretary is providing this waiver so that IHEs may provide programs using distance education to accommodate students without requiring such institutions to obtain Department approval to provide the program through distance education. If an IHE chooses to continue offering a program or use distance education in a manner requiring the Department’s approval after the waiver period ends, it must obtain approval under the Department’s normal process."

You will note that ED has not extended the requirement to implement the July 1, 2020 regulatory changes to required disclosures related to state authorization and distance education in 668.43(a).

Reference the State Authorization Regulatory Changes Effective July 1, 2020 and Today's News article, P&P Guidance Updates and Changes: Summary of Changes Effective July 1.

If you have questions about implementation of the state authorization regulations, contact your state agency and/or accrediting agency or your ED School Participation Division. Also visit the NC-SARA website for additional information and application details if your school is not already a NC-SARA participant.

Note: See the Federal Register for more waivers related to the evaluation and accreditation of distance education programs.

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