Regulatory Agency and Selected Accreditor Resources for Higher Education Institutions Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Higher education institutions worldwide are striving to meet their students’ educational needs while working to reduce and decelerate the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. In view of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities, many educational institutions have moved to online instruction, extended their spring break, shortened or shifted their academic year, or have otherwise departed from the normal course of business.

Because of the highly regulated nature of higher education, it is important that institutions remain mindful of the statutory and regulatory constraints that continue to apply at this time. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has provided updated guidance regarding the administration of the Title IV federal student aid programs, study abroad and other matters. Institutional accreditors are providing guidance regarding the transition to online coursework and are canceling upcoming site visits. Programmatic accreditors are also providing guidance relating to this public health emergency, including with respect to clinical coursework, which is often the capstone to programs in the health professions. (For instance, certain programmatic accreditors are not changing clinical requirements at all, while others are providing limited flexibility in specific circumstances.) Other federal regulators are providing guidance on other key matters, such as the availability of veterans’ education benefits and the status of international students whose U.S. institutions are taking emergency measures to address COVID-19. Higher education institutions are therefore advised to keep abreast of the latest guidance provided by federal and state regulators, as well as by their institutional and programmatic accrediting bodies, during this protracted period of non-standard operations.

Below, please find links to the most recent guidance provided by ED and other pertinent federal agencies, institutional accreditors, certain programmatic accreditors, and certain interstate commissions and higher education organizations with respect to COVID-19 and related exigencies. We encourage you to review the relevant guidance, as well as any guidance from pertinent state educational authorities, for its potential application to your institution. Should you have any questions regarding these or other educational regulatory matters, please do not hesitate to contact any member of our Education team, or your usual Faegre Drinker contact.

[Updated as of March 20, 2020].

U.S. Department of Education

  • COVID-19 ("Coronavirus") Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel: See guidance here.
  • March 5 Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) (as updated and modified by attached FAQs on March 20, 2020): See guidance here.
  • March 11 Dear CPA Letter CPA-20-01, Site Visit Exemption During COVID-19 Outbreak: See guidance here.
  • March 17 Information for Accrediting Agencies Regarding Temporary Flexibilities Provided to Coronavirus Impacted Institutions or Accrediting Agencies: See guidance here.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • March 12 Notice (via Facebook post) — COVID-19 Virus Concerns and How It Affects Your Benefits: See guidance here.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)

  • March 9 Broadcast Message — Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Potential Procedural Adaptations for F and M Nonimmigrant Students: See guidance here.
  • March 13 Guidance for SEVP Stakeholders: See guidance here.

Regional Accrediting Bodies

National Institutional Accreditors

Selected Programmatic Accreditors

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES): See guidance here.
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): See guidance here.
  • American Bar Association Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (ABA): See guidance here.
  • American Occupational Therapy Association, Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (AOTA-ACOTE)
  • American Physical Therapy Association, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (APTA-CAPTE): See guidance here.
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation, American Dental Association (CODA): See guidance here.
  • Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME): See guidance here.

Interstate Commissions and Higher Education Organizations

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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