Keep up with recent federal education activity from Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.
Federal Student Aid will maintain verification requirements that strictly focus on identity and fraud for the remainder of the 2022-23 award year but will waive any remaining verification requirements. In a typical year, more than 3 million federal aid applicants are asked to submit additional documentation to verify information they report to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The department’s Office for Civil Rights will collect public comments on possible amendments to the regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination because of disability status by programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as schools or higher education institutions. Comments can be submitted to the department here or during an upcoming listening tour.
The department invited 73 higher education institutions to participate in the program, bringing the total of participant to 200 institutions in nearly all 50 states. Institutions may begin accessing Pell Grants as early as July 1, 2022. Starting July 1, 2023, the department will fully implement a recently passed law that allows incarcerated students to access Pell Grants permanently.
The office of Federal Student Aid is making a one-time revision of income-driven repayment (IDR)-qualifying payments for all Direct Student Loans and federally managed Federal Family Education Loan Program loans. Any months in which borrowers made payments will count toward the IDR, regardless of repayment plan. Payments made prior to consolidation on consolidated loans will also count. Any borrower who has made the required number of payments for IDR forgiveness based on this payment-count revision will receive loan cancellation automatically. The Federal Student Aid office will count months spent in deferment prior to 2013 toward IDR forgiveness. Additionally, the office will also conduct a one-time account adjustment that will count forbearances of more than 12 months consecutive and more than 36 months cumulative toward forgiveness under the IDR and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.
The Federal Student Aid office estimates these changes will result in immediate debt cancellation for at least 40,000 borrowers under the PSLF Program. Several thousand borrowers with older loans will receive forgiveness through the IDR. More than 3.6 million borrowers will also receive at least three years of additional credit toward IDR forgiveness.
In 2023, the Federal Student Aid office will begin displaying IDR payment counts on StudentAid.gov so borrowers can view their progress after logging into their accounts.
The latest extension continues the suspension of federal student loan repayment, interest accrual and collection activities. Borrowers were previously expected to resume payments after May 1. The Department of Education also announced plans to allow borrowers currently in default to reenter repayment in good standing.
The Federal Communications Commission announced that a third application window for the Emergency Connectivity Fund will open April 28 and close May 13. The $7.17 billion fund was authorized as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help schools and libraries provide the tools and services their communities need. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Co. with FCC oversight.
The Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration announced $167 million in additional grant funding for multiple state projects to assist individuals with disabilities currently employed in or contemplating subminimum wage employment. The funding is to engage with state vocational rehabilitation agencies so workers may obtain competitive integrated employment. States must apply by June 21, 2022.
The guidance would hold companies with at least a 50% interest in nonpublic colleges financially responsible for liabilities arising from closed school loan discharges and borrower defense to repayment claims.
A Government Accountability Office survey of teachers estimated that nearly half of public-school teachers had at least one registered student who never attended class. High school teachers were the most affected, with nearly two-thirds (65%) having at least one student who never “showed up,” compared with less than half of teachers in grades three to eight (45%) or kindergarten to second grade (31%).
This second round of funding, made available through the Strengthening Community College Training Grants program, will build on the knowledge gained through the program’s initial $40 million investment, while prioritizing pathway development through rapid reskilling, training and employment through targeted industry sectors.
Administered by the Employment and Training Administration, the grants are designed to allow public institutions of higher education–individually or collectively–to improve their ability to address equity gaps and meet the skill development needs of employers and workers. The administration will award grants of up to $1.6 million for single institutions, up to $5 million for consortiums and up to $5 million designated to fund at least one affinity consortium grant, with special consideration given to applications submitted by historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, Minority-Serving Institutions Programs and Strengthening Institutions Programs.
Other sources are available:
The program will award up to $17.7 million in grants to four to six state educational agencies over four years to help enhance the quality of state assessment systems. Program priorities for this application cycle include developing assessment systems based on multiple measures, promoting competency-based education and improving the reporting of assessment results to parents and educators. Applications are due on April 18, 2022, and awards will be made by September 2022.
Nearly 16,000 borrowers were granted loan discharges through the borrower defense to repayment process. New claims were approved for borrowers who attended DeVry University, Westwood College, the nursing program at ITT Technical Institute, and the criminal justice programs at Minnesota School of Business/Globe University. Additional claims were granted to Corinthian Colleges and Marinello Schools of Beauty students whose applications were reviewed after earlier announcements of relief.
Updates to the College Scorecard include publishing data on the cumulative loan debt of student borrowers at both the institution-level and by field of study within each institution, as well as federal student loan repayment rates for each institution. The College Scorecard now includes earnings data for the alumni of each institution and shows the percentage of alumni earning more than the typical worker with only a high school diploma.
The Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund provides $9.8 billion to states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia; $100 million to other territories and Freely Associated States; and $100 million to tribal governments for capital projects that invest in infrastructure necessary for participation in work, education and health monitoring. Program priorities include investing in broadband infrastructure and other digital connectivity technology projects, especially in economically distressed areas. To receive funding, states and territories must submit grant plans to the Treasury by Sept. 24, 2022. States and territories have access to $495 million in administrative funds that can be used to prepare for investments in capital assets, including an allowable 5% set-aside to develop programs and projects with community input.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service will provide $1 billion to states in Supply Chain Assistance funds school districts can use to purchase food for meal programs. States have the option of using up to 10% of the funds to make bulk purchases of local food on behalf of school meal programs or targeting the funds to districts where at least a quarter of students are from low-income households. The USDA will also award $200 million to states to buy domestic local foods for distribution to schools through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s new Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program. Additionally, the USDA Foods in Schools program will purchase $300 million of domestic food products for distribution to schools.
The department also announced the reimbursement rate per school lunch will increase by 25 cents, which will result in an estimated $750 million increase for school meal programs across the nation this year.more
The administration plans to distribute 5 million rapid tests and 5 million PCR lab tests to schools each month. States will begin receiving rapid tests shipments through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity program at the end of January. Schools can immediately access the additional PCR tests through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Operation Expanded Testing program. The federal government will also deploy additional testing units, connect schools with testing providers and provide new training resources for implementing testing in schools.
New grants will be made through the $198 million Supplemental Support Under the American Rescue Plan program to support colleges and universities with the greatest unmet needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The department will prioritize community colleges and rural institutions that serve a high percentage of low-income students and have experienced enrollment declines since the start of the pandemic. Funds will be awarded in late spring. The department also published new guidance on how colleges can use these new and existing federal funds to meet students’ basic needs. Additionally, the department awarded $5 million in grants to meet students’ basic needs at six community colleges in California, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas.
The settlement resolves allegations that Navient made predatory private student loans and illegally pushed federal student loan borrowers into higher-cost repayment plans. Under the settlement, Navient will be required to cancel $1.5 billion owed by almost 66,000 private loan holders and pay $95 million in restitution to about 350,000 federal student loan borrowers, who were denied access to income-driven repayment plans. Additionally, Navient will pay $145 million in restitution to the 40 states involved in the litigation.
Jan. 23, 2022 | Comprehensive Federal Stimulus Spending Podcast
Sorting Through the Stimulus
The draft FAQ document provides preliminary details on how state and local education agencies can use temporary flexibilities to implement ESEA accountability and school improvement requirements using data from the 2021-22 school year. This document is posted for stakeholder review and comment through Jan. 16.
The Department of Education plans to award five to seven grants through the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program to support organizations that train state educational agencies and school districts in the implementation of family engagement policies and programs.
The Department of Education and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a new initiative to increase the labor supply of school bus drivers by allowing states to waive the portion of the commercial driver’s license skills test that requires applicants to identify the “under the hood” engine components. Drivers receiving a CDL under this temporary waiver are permitted to operate intrastate school buses only; they are not authorized to operate trucks, motorcoaches or any other type of commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL. The waiver is currently scheduled to expire March 31.
The latest extension continues the suspension of federal student loan repayment, interest accrual and collection activities. Borrowers were previously expected to resume payments after Jan. 31.
The bipartisan legislation (S 848) revises the service obligation verification process for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant. Teachers whose TEACH grants were automatically converted to loans can now have their loan reconverted into a grant. Additionally, the law now provides more flexibility for employment certification and provides three years additional years for grantees to meet their service obligation due to the impact of Covid-19.
All states have submitted Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III (ESSER) plans, and the Department of Education has approved 44 of them. States receive the remaining one-third of ESSER III funds upon approval.
Average scores for 13-year-olds in both reading and mathematics were lower in 2020 compared with the last long-term trend assessments in 2012. Averages scores for 9-year-olds in reading and math were not significantly different from 2012. This is the first time scores have dropped in the test’s 50-year history.
Oct. 18, 2021 | Department of Education Requests Comment on Maintenance of Equity, Updates Guidance
The public can submit comments on the implementation of the maintenance of equity provision in the American Rescue Plan Act through Nov. 4. The department also released updated maintenance of equity guidance, which provides additional flexibilities to states with small school districts. Read more here for the updated guidance and here to provide comment on the provision’s implementation.
Among the many changes, the department is offering a limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program waiver that allows all payments by student borrowers to count toward PSLF, regardless of loan program or payment plan. The department also committed to reviewing denied PSLF applications for errors and giving borrowers the ability to have their denials reconsidered. Additionally, active-duty service members will automatically receive credit and can count deferments and forbearances toward PSLF.
The updated guidance offers additional details on how states can demonstrate compliance with the state maintenance of equity provisions. The update says school districts that certify they are not facing overall budget cuts do not have to comply with local maintenance of equity requirements for fiscal year 2022. The department will invite public comment on the maintenance of equity provisions but did not provide a timeline for that process.
A proposed notice clarifies that while federal law preempts state regulation in certain narrow areas, states can regulate student loan servicers in many other ways without violating the federal Higher Education Act. The new interpretation supersedes a 2018 notice from the Trump administration, which argued that states have no oversight authority over student loan servicers that are contracted through the federal student loan program.
The extension continues the suspension of federal student loan repayment, interest accrual, and collection activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated teachers, students and staff do not need to wear masks in schools but that individuals ages 2 and up, who are unvaccinated, should continue to wear masks, according to the guidance. The CDC continues to recommend that students and teachers maintain at least three feet of physical distance to reduce transmission.
July 19, 2021 | Department of Education Announces Several New Funding Opportunities
States can apply for funds through the $2.75 billion Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools program to provide services or assistance to eligible non-public schools to address the impact of COVID-19. Applications are due by Sept. 9, 2021.
The department made available $2.6 billion in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B Grants to states for fiscal year 2021.
The department made available $600 million for states through the Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY).
The department’s Office for Civil Rights said its interpretation of Title IX includes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The new loan discharges will clear more than $500 million in debt for 18,000 students who were misled by claims made by the now closed for-profit institution.
Twenty-eight states have submitted their plans for review and approval by the Department. In March, two-thirds of the American Rescue Plan Act K-12 funds were distributed through the ESSER program. States were required to submit their ESSER implementation plans to the Department in order to access the remaining one-third of funds.
The Office of Federal Student Aid announced that the FAFSA Simplification Act approved by Congress last year, will be fully implemented by the 2024-25 school year, rather than 2023-24, as the law states.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that overall spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million from 17.5 million. Traditional college students aged 18-24 saw the largest decline at 5%.
The guidance details how states receiving ARPA funding can’t cut funding to their highest-poverty districts below FY 2019 levels. They also can’t disproportionately cut funding to “high-need” districts that collectively enroll 50 percent of the state’s students.
New guidance outlines a streamlined and expedited process for any federal, state or local authorities to request access to information to conduct oversight or investigations of student loan servicers or collection agencies. The Department says they “intend to exercise their authority to collaborate and coordinate” with state agencies and financial regulators.
The FAQ document provides clarifications on how states and districts can award and spend funds, including state legislatures cannot place restrictions on local funds, funds cannot shore up rainy day accounts, and funds can be used on school construction.
The temporary program provides families with children participating in the free or reduced-price lunch or school breakfast program, and Pell Grant recipients with a discount on household broadband service and associated equipment.
The funding is made available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief program. Colleges and universities must award 50% of funds as emergency aid to students and can use remainder for lost revenue and reimbursement for expenses. The Department released a final rule that allows institutions to provide federal emergency aid to all students, including undocumented students.
The data indicated that in March, 54% of K-8 schools were open for full-time in-person learning, and 88% were open for either full-time in-person and/or hybrid learning.
$800 million was set aside from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support the identification, enrollment, and school participation of students experiencing homelessness. One-fourth of these funds are made available to states immediately, the remaining funds will be allocated to states as soon as June.
States must submit their ESSER implementation plans to the Department by June 7, 2021 in order to access the remaining one-third of ESSER III funds. Last month, states received two-thirds of the ARPA K-12 funds through the ESSER program.
Free meals will continue to be available to all students through the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option.
The maintenance of effort (MOE) guidance covers state education spending from FY20 through FY23 and outlines the process and considerations for applying for MOE waivers. This guidance replaces CARES MOE guidance from May 2020. The Department is expected to release separate guidance on the maintenance of equity requirements in the ARPA.
The handbook focuses on strategies to address the social, emotional, mental-health, and academic impacts on students, educators, and staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly a year of remote learning.
March 30, 2021 | The Department of Education Provides Student Loan Relief for Permanently Disabled Borrowers and Borrowers under the FFEL Program
Income documentation requirements for borrowers who receive a federal student loan discharge due to total and permanent disability will be waived during the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Any loans that were reinstated or payments that were made during the pandemic will be discharged or refunded. Additionally, borrowers who defaulted on a privately held Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) will not pay interest on their loan and receive relief from collection activities through Sept. 30, 2021. The relief will apply retroactively to March 13, 2020, and any tax refunds seized or wages garnished over the past year will be returned to borrowers. Read more information on student loan relief for permanently disabled borrowers and information on student loan relief in the FFEL program.
The guidance recommends that students in school buildings stay three feet apart, rather than six, as long as universal masking is maintained.
March 19, 2021 | The Department of Education Announces the Distribution of $122B in Relief Aid for K-12 Schools and $40B for Higher Education
Two-thirds of K-12 funds through the ESSER program are immediately available to states, while remaining funds will be made available after states submit ESSER implementation plans. States must set aside 5% of their K-12 allotments to address learning loss, while districts must set aside at least 20% of their distribution to address learning loss. Colleges and universities must award 50% of funds as emergency aid to student and can use remainder for lost revenue and reimbursement for expenses. Click here for more information on the K-12 funding and here for higher education funding.
CDC and state and local health departments will support technical assistance to assist states and schools in standing up and implementing testing programs.
March 10, 2021 | Congress Passes the American Rescue Plan Act
The measure includes $128.5 billion in relief aid for K-12 schools and $40 billion for higher education. Notable provisions in the package include a “maintenance of equity” provision, changes to the federal 90/10 rule which prohibits for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal aid programs, and making student loan forgiveness tax-free from 2021 through 2026.
Free meals will continue to be available to all students while school is out of session through the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option.
Teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the federal program nationwide.
The Senate confirmed Dr. Miguel Cardona by a bipartisan vote of 64-33, to lead the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Cardona is a former teacher, school administrator, and Connecticut’s education commissioner.
The new guidance does not offer waivers for spring statewide assessments, but provides states additional flexibility on how and when to administer assessments. Such flexibility includes administering a shortened version of their statewide assessment tests, offering the test remotely when feasible, and extending the testing window to the summer or fall. The Department of Education is also offering states the option to request a waiver for the accountability and school identification requirements.
The CDC’s newly updated operational strategy guidance details how schools can reopen through consistent use of mitigation strategies, especially universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing. The U.S. Department of Education also released a supplementary COVID-19 Handbook that provides practical examples and roadmaps to implement CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning. Notably, CDC guidance encourages schools in low and moderate transmission zones to consider reopening for full in-person learning.
The National Center for Education Statistics will survey schools on their instructional mode, including in-person, hybrid or remote; the breakdown of attendance rates by demographics, including race, socioeconomic status and student disabilities; and student groups prioritized for in-person instruction by selected school characteristics.
The order directs the Department of Agriculture to increase Pandemic-EBT benefits by approximately 15%. The Pandemic-EBT program was created last spring to help replace the subsidized or free meals that tens of millions of children normally get at school. The order also aims to allow states to increase SNAP emergency benefits for those most in need.
The order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Sept. 30, 2021.
Jan. 14, 2021 | DeVos Announces the Distribution of $54.3B in Pandemic Relief Aid for K-12 Schools, $4.1B in Emergency Education Grants for Governors, and $21B for Colleges and Universities
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. This additional funding can be used to address learning loss, improve school facilities and infrastructure to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, and purchase education technology. See how much each state will receive and the fact sheet on the new ESSER funding .
The legislation provided an additional $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Approximately $2.75 billion will be set aside by Congress to support disadvantaged students at non-public schools. Funds are limited to COVID-related needs and cannot be used for vouchers or scholarships for parents. Read the fact sheet on the new GEER funding
The legislation also provided $20.5 billion to public and non-profit colleges and universities and $681 million to for-profit colleges to provide financial aid grants to students. Institutions can use the stimulus money for lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses, technology costs due to the shift to online learning, financial aid for students. Read the fact sheet on the new HEERF funding.
the year-over-year change in cost at each institution.
Dec. 27, 2020 | Congress Passes COVID-Relief and FY 2021 Funding Package
The president signed the measure into law on Dec. 27, which includes $82 billion in relief aid for education and $73.5 billion in annual funding for the Department of Education. The package also includes significant changes to federal financial aid, including expanding Pell eligibility and simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Access NCSL's summaries of the COVID-19 stimulus and omnibus appropriations provisions.
Dec. 22, 2020 | Biden Nominates Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona For Education Secretary
Miguel Cardona, a former teacher, school administrator, and currently Connecticut’s education commissioner, was nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Education.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that high school graduates who went straight to college declined by 21.7% compared to 2019. Public college enrollment among high school graduates of low-income high schools declined at disproportionately higher rates (29%).
Dec. 9, 2020 | NCSL Releases GEER Fund Tracker
Governors have obligated at least 93.1% of the $3 billion in education relief to states through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. NCSL, with assistance from the National Governor’s Association, will continue to update its state-by-state tracker.
The order continues the temporary suspension of payments and interest accrual on federal student loans held by the Department of Education until Jan. 31, 2021.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) postponed the reading and mathematics National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments, scheduled to start in January 2021 for fourth and eighth grades, until 2022. NCES Commissioner James Woodworth stated that at this time, NCES “cannot conduct a national-level assessment in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.”
Oct. 30, 2020 | Nation’s Report Card Shows 12th Grade Reading Scores Have Declined, Math Unchanged
The average reading score for high school seniors declined between 2015 and 2019; math scores remained unchanged. Scores for the lowest performing seniors dropped in both subjects. Overall, 37% of 12th-graders reached or exceeded the academic preparedness benchmarks for both math and reading that would qualify them for entry-level college courses. Read the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Assessment report and the 2019 NAEP Math Assessment report.
Federal survey data shows undergraduate enrollment is down 4% overall, while first-time student enrollment is down 16.1% nationwide and 22.7% at community colleges.
The program provides discounts to schools and libraries for broadband services and will allow schools to purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address needs resulting from the increasing shift to online learning.
The USDA announced that it would extend flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all students throughout the duration of the 2020-2021 school year. The USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020. This will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option through June 30, 2021.
School districts, non-profits, and universities in 21 states received 35 awards through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSL) Program , Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program, and the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program.
Sept. 15, 2020 | The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Released Indicators for In-Person School Transmission: The tool is designed to help school administrators and local health officials make decisions about beginning, continuing, or pausing in-person learning. The CDC recommends the use of three indicators
the number of new cases per 100,000 persons within the last 14 days, the percentage of tests that are positive during the last 14 days, and one self-assessed measure of schools' ability to adhere to various mitigation strategies.
The rule would deny federal grant money to institutions if they violate the First Amendment and free speech policies. The rule does not affect federal student aid dollars. The regulation also requires that religious student organizations be given the same treatment as nonsecular groups and explains how religious-affiliated colleges can claim exemptions to Title IX.
The decision repeals the Education Department’s interim final rule that directs school districts to reserve Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for “equitable services” to all local private school students, if the district makes funds available to all students in a district. The ruling applies nationwide and the Department has since taken down the “equitable services” interim final rule. The court ruled that Congress expressed a clear and unambiguous preference for apportioning funding to public and private schools based on the number of students from low-income families.
HHS will provide up to 125 million face masks to states for distribution to schools. Masks will be allocated according to each state’s share of low-income students.
Sept. 3, 2020 | DeVos Tells State Education Chiefs not to Expect Assessment Waivers for 2020-2021 School Year
DeVos defended her rationale in a letter to chief state school officers.
The USDA announced that several school meal program flexibilities will be extended through December 31, 2020. This will allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months.>
California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as public school districts in Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, and San Francisco. The Education Department's interim final rule directs school districts to reserve Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for “equitable services” to all local private school students if the district makes funds available to all students in district.
The regulations provide flexibility to distance education and competency-based education programs, clarify the distinction between distance education and correspondence courses, and simplify clock-to-credit hour conversions. The new rule also simplifies rules on “subscription-based programs” and includes provisions to ensure that students incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility continue their eligibility for Pell Grants. The regulations were developed by a negotiated rulemaking effort in 2019. The regulations will take effect July 1, 2021, but institutions can voluntarily employ the new flexibilities now.
The grant is part of the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which supports expanding the scientific and technological capacity by increasing the number of minority graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Aug. 8, 2020 | Trump Takes Executive Action as Negotiations Stall: Memorandum on Student Loan Payment Relief
The order continues the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until Dec. 31, 2020.
Congress set aside 1% of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for grants to states with the highest coronavirus burden. The Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant will support states’ efforts to provide families with access to technology and services to advance remote learning.
The CDC recommends that school districts make decisions about reopening schools for in-person instruction based on local needs and the levels of COVID-19 transmission in their community. The agency advised against screening all students for symptoms, not closing down entire schools if one person tests positive, and offered more guidance on the use of face masks in the classroom setting. The guidance also provides new information on decision-making tools and checklists for parents and an FAQ for administrators. The CDC will continue to develop new resources to help schools reopen, including more guidance for institutions of higher education.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have agreed to rescind the July 6 policy directive that would have required international students to take at least some in-person coursework to remain in the U.S. The government will return to the status quo of its March 13 guidance, which permits international students with F-1 visas to stay in the U.S. while taking online courses.
June 30, 2020 | Senate HELP Committee Introduced $430 Billion COVID-19 Relief bill for Child-Care and Education
The $430 billion bill provides $345 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, including $175 billion for K-12 schools, $132 billion for higher education and $33 billion for a governor’s fund. The bill also includes a maintenance of effort requirement stating that states may not reduce their education spending for three years.
June 30, 2020 | Supreme Court Rules on State Aid to Religious Schools
Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue examined whether the Montana Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax-credit scholarship program that allowed students to use the scholarships to attend private schools, including religious schools. The U.S. Supreme Court sided 5-4 with Montana families, ruling that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools, a decision that opened the door to more public funding of religious education.
June 30, 2020 | CDC Released Guidance on COVID-19 Testing in K-12 Schools and Universities
The guidance advised against universal testing of faculty and students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that K-12 schools implement preventive measures like social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. For universities, the CDC recommends broader testing for people who have been in contact with infected patients in settings where the disease can quickly spread, such as residence halls, bathrooms and lounges.
June 26, 2020 | Borrower-Defense Veto Override Fails
The House failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a bill that would have undone DeVos’s borrower-defense rule. The rule went into effect on July 1, 2020.
The rule requires school districts to calculate the private school share of CARES Act funds (1) Based on total enrollment in private schools if district makes funds available to all students in district; or (2) Based on the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools, if district only uses funds in Title I schools. This rule follows up on the April 30 guidance and goes into effect immediately, although the Department will offer a 30-day comment period.
The $127.5 million Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grant Program seeks to expand sector-based education and training programs and support local entrepreneurship through small business incubators. States should submit their completed application no later than Aug. 24, 2020.
June 15, 2020 | DeVos announces rule limiting student eligibility for CARES higher education emergency aid
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new regulation that would limit eligibility for the higher education emergency aid in the CARES Act to students who qualify for federal financial aid. The interim final rule reflects the Department’s April 21 guidance, which would restrict aid for undocumented students and others who don’t qualify for federal student aid. The rule will take effect immediately after it is published in the Federal Register, which the department said would happen on June 15. The department said that it would not retroactively enforce the new rule against colleges. The agency will also accept public comments on the policy for 30 days.
June 8, 2020 | Department of Education Releases CARES Act Maintenance of Effort Guidance
The U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the maintenance of effort (MOE) provision for the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act requires states that accept either the K-12 or governor’s funds to maintain support for both K-12 and higher education in FY 2020 and FY 2021 at a level at least equal to the average funding levels for FY 2017- FY 2019. The guidance explains the methodologies states may use to quantify their support for K-12 and higher education. Notably, the department reports it does not anticipate reviewing MOE waiver requests for either FY 2020 or FY 2021 until September 2021.
June 8, 2020 | Trump Vetoes Bill to Overturn DeVos’ Borrower Defense Rule
President Donald Trump vetoed House Joint Resolution 56 , a Congressional Review Act resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. House leaders are preparing for a veto override vote on July 1, but will likely lack the votes to override it.
June 1, 2020 | CDC Announces Guidance for Reopening Schools During the Pandemic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance, including a school decision tool, to assist administrators in reopening K-12 schools. The guidance is supplemental and does not replace any state and local health and safety laws, rules or regulations.
May 11, 2020 | Title IX Sexual Misconduct in Education Final Regulation Released
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a new Title IX rule for how K-12 schools and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The rule requires schools to use trained personnel to evaluate evidence to investigate and make decisions on complaints. When facing a complaint, every student must be given the right to written notice of allegations, the right to an advisor, and the right to submit, cross-examine and challenge evidence at a live or virtual hearing. The hearings are optional for K-12 schools. When making decisions, schools must select one of two standards of evidence: the “preponderance of the evidence” standard or the “clear and convincing evidence” standard.
Schools must respond to misconduct that occurs at events where the institution “exercised substantial control” over both the accused and the context where the misconduct occurred. For colleges, this include off-campus harassment at houses owned or under the control of school-sanctioned fraternities and sororities. The rule also expands the government’s definition of “sexual harassment” to include sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Additionally, K-12 schools must respond promptly when any school employee has notice of sexual harassment. The regulations are in effect Aug. 14, 2020.
May 4, 2020 | Education Department Does Not Recommend IDEA Waivers, Asks Congress to Consider Other Flexibilities
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she is not recommending that Congress pass any additional waiver authority concerning the Free Appropriate Public Education and Least Restrictive Environment requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The department is requesting that Congress consider additional flexibilities on administrative requirements under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA.
April 30, 2020 | Education Department Provides $1.4B to HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and Colleges and Universities Serving Low-Income Students
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that $1.4 billion in additional CARES Act funding will be directed to Minority Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, as well as institutions serving low-income students. Institutions may use this funding to cover operational costs, such as lost revenue, reimbursements for prior expenses and payroll. Funds may also be used for technology costs and grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students. Institutional allocations can be found here. Schools have until Aug. 1, 2020, to apply for the funds.
April 27, 2020 | Education Department Announces $300M in Grant Competitions for States
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced two grant competitions with funds authorized by the CARES Act: $180 million for “Rethink K12 Education Models Grants” and $127.5 million for the “Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.” Within the “Rethink” competition, state education agencies can apply for funds under one of three priorities: microgrants for families for access to technology and educational services, statewide virtual learning and course access programs, or new models for providing remote education. Approximately 13-14 grants will be awarded through the “Rethink” competition. The “Reimagining Workforce” competition will award around 8-9 grants to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs. For additional information about how to apply, please visit the OESE website.
April 27, 2020 | Education Department Makes $13.2 Billion Available in Emergency Coronavirus Relief to School Districts
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that more than $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds allocated by the CARES Act are now available to state and local education agencies to support continued learning for K-12 students. Funds can help states and districts provide tools and resources for distance education, support student health and safety, and develop and implement plans for the next school year. The department intends to process each submitted form within three business days of receipt.
April 27, 2020 | Education Department Provides $6 Billion in Additional Grant Funding to Support Higher Education Institutions
DeVos announced an additional $6.2 billion grant to support higher education institutions. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act. The funding for these "Recipient Institutional Costs" is separate from the funding previously made available for "Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students." To access the funds, higher education institutions must submit a Certification and Agreement for Recipient Institutional Costs.
April 20, 2020 | Education Department Announces Streamlined Waiver Process for State and District Funding Flexibilities
State education agencies can now apply for waivers that grant additional flexibilities on state and district funding using a streamlined waiver form. Among the new flexibilities, states can allow districts to carry over more than 15% of their federal FY 2019 Title I funds to the next fiscal year. States can receive a waiver to extend the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for many Elementary and Secondary Education Act categorical programs (including Title I A-D, Title II, and Title IV A-B) until Sept. 30, 2021. The waiver also allows states to grant districts flexibility within allowed uses of Title IV-A funds, including waiving the 15% limit of use of funds to purchase technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. These additional flexibilities were authorized by the CARES Act and complement previously announced waivers on federal state assessment and accountability provisions.
April 14, 2020 | ED releases $3 Billion in Emergency Education Block Grants for Governors
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that governors can now apply for their allotment of the nearly $3 billion Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, as authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funds can be used at the direction of the governor to provide support to K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations, including child care providers and non-public schools. State allocations for the GEER Fund can be found here. Governors can apply for funds by completing a short application. The Department expects to obligate the funds within three business days of application.
March 31, 2020 | DeVos Announced Deadline Extension for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Plans
Education Secretary Betsy Devos announced an extension for states that need additional time to submit their state plans for FY 2020-2023 under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The Department of Education will allow states and local Perkins recipients to receive their first installment of Perkins V funds on time even if they need an extension. Information on the new flexibilities can be found here.
March 30, 2020 | Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Stops Collection of Defaulted Federal Student Loans
The Department of Education has halted all collection actions and wage garnishment for federal student loan borrowers for at least 60 days starting retroactively on March 13. The secretary directed the department to refund approximately $1.8 billion in offsets that have occurred since March 13 to more than 830,000 borrowers.
March 23, 2020 | DeVos Waives Interest on Student Loans, Offers Deferred Loan Payments
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on March 20 announced that all borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months. DeVos also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020.
March 23, 2020 | DeVos Offers Assessment Waivers for States
On March 20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department of Education will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year. Any state that receives this waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that this testing data be used in the statewide accountability system.
March 16, 2020 | Senate Votes to Overturn Administration’s Borrower Defense Rule
Senate lawmakers voted to approve SR 56, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. The final vote was 53-42, which included 10 Republicans voting in favor of the CRA. The rule was finalized last year and raises the standards that student borrowers must meet to receive debt forgiveness after being defrauded by colleges. The revised rule requires borrowers to demonstrate they suffered financial harm from their college’s misconduct and that the college made deceptive statements with knowledge of its misleading nature. The rewrite also requires borrowers to apply individually instead of allowing automatic discharges for groups of students and eliminates the Obama-era rule’s prohibition on predispute arbitration. The House passed a similar measure in January that would restore the Obama-era rule. The White House is expected to veto the resolution.
March 9, 2020 | Department of Education Delays Changes to Rural School Funding Formula
Education Secretary Betsy Devos this week delayed previously announced changes to the allocation formula for the Rural and Low-Income School Program that would have resulted in funding reductions to approximately 800 rural schools across the country. The changes were announced in February via a letter to state chiefs’ school officers, but received bipartisan pushback from Congress that resulted in the reversal. Under the formula changes, districts must determine student poverty using census data, rather than the number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals. While this measure has been allowed since 2003, the Department of Education has determined census data must be used to comply with federal law. DeVos stated the formula changes would be delayed for a year to give time for Congress to fix language in the law.
March 2, 2020 | DeVos Announces Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new initiative to combat the rise of sexual misconduct in elementary and secondary schools. The initiative aims to improve the department’s Office of Civil Rights’ enforcement of Title IX in K-12 schools, which will include nationwide compliance reviews in schools and districts to examine how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX. The department is anticipated to release the final Title IX regulations in the coming weeks.
Feb. 24, 2020 | ED Launches School Safety Website: The Trump administration launched the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website
SchoolSafety.gov. This website is a collection of resources for K-12 administrators, educators, parents and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security and support in schools. The launch of the website fulfills a key recommendation from the 2018 Federal Commission on School Safety.
Feb. 10, 2020 | President Trump Urges Congress to Approve Federal Tax Credits for School Choice
During his recent State of the Union address, President Donald Trump urged Congress to approve federal tax credits for school choice. He also called for an expansion of career and technical education and promoted his administration’s support for historically black colleges and universities and religious liberty in schools. In the weeks leading up to the State of the Union, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos traveled across the country to promote the administration’s Education Freedom Scholarships proposal.
Jan. 27, 2020 | Supreme Court Hears Case on Public Funding for Religious Schools
On Jan. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that could have significant implications for public education and school choice policies. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that Montana violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax-credit scholarship program that allowed students to claim the credits to attend private schools, including religious schools. The Montana court ruled that the subsidy violated a state constitutional provision barring any state aid to religious schools, whether direct or indirect. Thirty-seven states have similar no-aid policies, often known as “Blaine” amendments, which prohibit the use of government funding for religious purposes. Opponents argue that such prohibitions discriminate against religious families and schools, while others argue that allowing public funds to be used for private and/or religious schools could harm public education.
Jan. 21, 2020 | House Votes to Overturn Borrower Defense Rule
House lawmakers voted to approve HJ Res. 76, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would block the Trump administration’s rewrite of the Obama-era “borrower defense to repayment” rule. The final vote was 231-180, which included six Republicans voting in favor of the CRA. The rule was finalized last year and raises the standards that student borrowers must meet to receive debt forgiveness after being defrauded by colleges. Democrats argue the new rules make seeking loan forgiveness too burdensome for defrauded borrowers, while Republicans have defended the rule as necessary to rein in costs for taxpayers. Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the measure in the coming weeks. The White House has already threatened to veto the resolution.
Jan. 13, 2020 | Trump Signs FUTURE Act
On Dec. 19, Trump signed into law the FUTURE Act, a bipartisan bill that permanently authorizes $255 million in annual funding for historically black colleges and universities and other institutions serving minorities. The law also streamlines and simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows for automatic income recertification for federal student loan borrowers in income-driven repayment plans, and authorizes a small increase in Pell Grant funding.