Late on Friday afternoon the Department released a new Electronic Announcement (EA) entitled, “Updated deadlines for flexibilities related to Coronavirus (COVID-19),” which provides great news for students forced to be placed on a Leave of Absence, as well as many other positive updates to the prior regulatory guidance.

OVERVIEW
In general, the EA explains that “the Department is extending the deadline for all flexibilities related to the COVID-19 emergency through the end of the payment period that includes December 31, 2020 or the end of the payment period that includes the end date for the Federally-declared emergency related to COVID-19, whichever occurs later.”

This means that all of the COVID-19 flexibilities included and discussed in the five prior EAs (March 5, April 3, May 15, July 9, and July 10, 2020), except for the Equity and Athletics disclosures (EADA), the Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate (FISAP), and Campus and Fire Safety deadlines published in the most recent July 10th EA, are now extend to the later of the end of the year or later if the Federal-declaration of the end of the novel coronavirus pandemic national emergency is declared on or after January 1, 2021.

NEW GUIDANCE
In addition to this good news, ED provided more specific new and updated guidance in the following areas:

Leave 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 the calendar year. This flexibility includes students who are already on an LOA approved since the original flexibility was granted.

Return of Title IV Funds
An institution is not required to return Title IV 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 withdraws after the conclusion of that payment period but within the applicable period of enrollment.

Academic Calendars
Flexibilities related to academic calendars, including standard semesters or trimesters consisting of as few as 13 weeks, standard quarters consisting of as few as nine weeks, and overlapping standard terms extend through the end of the academic year that includes December 31, 2020 or the academic year that includes the end date for the Federally-declared emergency related to COVID-19, whichever occurs later. Because it is frequently necessary for institutions to establish academic calendars that cover an entire academic year as opposed to a single payment period, we believe it is appropriate to align the deadline for these flexibilities to coincide with the end of program’s academic year.

Reporting and Audit Requirements
Until further notice, financial statement and compliance audit deadlines are extended by six months. This affords institutions an additional six months from the date an audit or financial statement would otherwise be due, to submit the appropriate documentation.

Campus-Based Matching Requirements
Section 3503 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act waives the institutional share (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. Irrespective of when the national emergency declaration is lifted, no institutional match is required for either of these award years. We remind institutions that the CARES Act does not waive the non-Federal share requirement that applies to private for-profit organizations that participate in the FWS program.

REGULATIONS SUBJECT TO THE NEW DEADLINES ESTABLISHED BY THE MOST RECENT ELECTRONIC ANNOUNCEMENT
Accommodating Students Whose Enrollment is Disrupted by Coronavirus
• Academic Calendars
• Leave of Absence
• Enrollment Status Changes

Approval to Offer Distance Education
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) and Reporting Requirements (34 C.F.R. § 668.22)
• Students Who Did Not Begin Attendance
• Definition of a Withdrawal Date
• Date of Determination and Timeframes for Returns
• Reentering the Same Payment Period

General Provisions
• Academic Year (§ 668.3)
• Agreements to Permit Study at Another Institution (§ 668.5)
• Compliance Audits and Audited Financial Statements (§ 668.23)
• Institutional Participation (§ 668.26(a)(1))
• Notifications Regarding an Immediate Threat to Health or Safety (§ 668.46)
• Professional Judgment
• Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) (§ 668.34)

Verification (Part 668 Subpart E)
• Verification Status Code “W” Warning and “Deobligation” Process Postponed

Federal Student Aid Program Information
• Deadline for Reporting Initial Disbursement Records (Federal Pell Grant § 690.83 and TEACH Grant § 686.37)
• Final Federal Reporting Deadlines

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program
• Borrowers in In-School Loan Status (§ 685.207) and In-School Deferment Status (§ 685.204)
• Submission of Direct Loan Payment Data (§ 685.301(c))
• Collection of Defaulted Loans
• Satisfactory Repayment Arrangements (§ 685.102)
• Payments to Rehabilitate Defaulted Loans (§ 685.211(f))

FFEL Program
• Lenders and Guaranty Agencies and Loans held by the Department Satisfactory Repayment Arrangements (§ 682.200(b))
• Borrowers in In-School Loan Status (§ 682.209(a)) and In-School Deferment Status (§ 682.210)
• Collection of Defaulted Loans (§ 682.410)
• Payments to Rehabilitate Defaulted Loans (§ 682.405)

Federal Work Study
• Community Service Requirements (§ 675.18(g))
• Flexibility in Making Certain FWS Payments (§ 675.18(i))

Federal Perkins Loan Program
• Borrowers in Repayment (§ 674.33)
• Collection of Defaulted Loans (Part 674, Subpart C—Due Diligence)
• Satisfactory Repayment Arrangements on Defaulted Loans (§ 674.2)
• Payments to Rehabilitate Defaulted Loans (§ 674.39)