Coronavirus and Flexibility for Colleges to Offer Online Classes

March 24, 2020

U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance for Accreditation in
Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19

On March 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) issued a guidance document that suspends some federal regulations due to COVID-19 disruption to campuses and travel.The guidance is intended to provide both institutions and accreditors with flexibility regarding accrediting visits and for distance education, designed to save institutions time in seeking approvals and reduce costs so that students can be protected and assisted as institutions grapple with COVID-19 and its impact on higher education. The guidance document followed a USDE letter sent on March 5, 2020 providing broad approval to institutions to use online technologies to accommodate students on a temporary basis without going through the regular USDE approval process. Read the CHEA Federal Update outlining the guidance and the impact it will have on institutions as well as accrediting organizations.


What's Next: How Long Will Colleges Have Flexibility to Offer Online Classes Due to Coronavirus? (Education Dive, March 20, 2020) “Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, said the organization plans to take stock of the situation at the end of the academic year. That includes talking with accreditors and deciding if a more permanent intervention with regard to its or the department's standards is necessary. ‘It's hard because we don't know what's going to happen,’ Eaton said. ‘We don't know when a governor or mayor is going to say, 'Open the schools.' … We've got an immediate situation — let's deal with it, but let's be mindful that we are going to have to take additional steps in the future.'”

Ed Dept Green-Lights Virtual Site Visits for Accreditors Due to Coronavirus (Education Dive, March 18, 2020) “New guidance also lets agencies extend accreditation term and develop or revise policies without going through the typical review process.”

Education Department Waives Rules for College Accreditors (Politico, "Morning Edition" [after opening link, scroll down page to see item]. March 18, 2020) “The Trump administration on Tuesday suspended a series of federal requirements for college accreditors as they oversee a higher education system that’s facing unprecedented disruption across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

NACIQI Meeting Provides Updates on Accreditation Regulations (New America, March 18, 2020) “Diane Auer Jones provided some clarity, and piled on additional concerns, about how the Department of Education will implement the new rules.”

Will Regional Accreditation Go National? (Inside Higher Ed, March 17, 2020) “The federal government opened the door for regional accreditors to operate in other parts of the country, and one agency is taking advantage, Judith Eaton writes. Is this a good idea or a bad one?”