Jonathan D. Tarnow
August 26, 2020
On August 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued an electronic announcement extending the effective period for all previously issued regulatory flexibilities related to the COVID-19 national emergency. Those regulatory flexibilities were initially implemented through a series of earlier announcements from ED on March 5, April 3, May 15, July 9 and July 10. Under this latest announcement, except for certain topics addressed below, the effective period of all of those regulatory flexibilities, including but not limited to the broad flexibilities provided to offer distance education, now extends through the later of (1) the end of the Title IV federal student aid payment period that includes December 31, 2020; or (2) the end of the payment period that includes the end date for the federally-declared emergency related to COVID-19.
The following are exceptions to the above general effective period:
Campus-based programs’ matching requirements: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act waived the institutional match requirement associated with the Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) programs for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 award years. Therefore, irrespective of when the national emergency declaration is lifted, no institutional match is required for either of these award years.
Leaves of absence (LOA): ED is extending the maximum duration of an LOA from 180 days to also include the number of additional days remaining in this calendar year. This flexibility includes students who are already on an LOA approved since the original regulatory flexibility on LOAs was granted.
Return of Title IV funds (R2T4): Institutions are not required to return Title IV program funds for any student who begins attendance in a payment period or period of enrollment that includes March 13, 2020, or begins between March 13 and the later of December 31 or the last date that the national emergency is in effect, and subsequently withdraws from the period as a result of COVID-19-related circumstances. Standard term programs must use the payment period, i.e., semester, trimester, or quarter, to calculate returns. Where an institution has opted to use the period of enrollment to calculate its returns for a non-term or non-standard term program, the waiver may apply to a student who begins attendance in a payment period that includes December 31, 2020 or the last date that the national emergency is in effect, and subsequently withdraws after the conclusion of that payment period but within the applicable period of enrollment.