Coronavirus

New HEERF Guidance Adds Flexibility, Extends Time Period for Institutions’ Costs and Lost Revenue

March 24, 2021

By Jane M. Sovern and Philip J. Zaccheo

On March 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) issued new guidance to institutions of higher education (IHEs) regarding the use of funds received pursuant to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grant programs. The Department’s stated goal is to allow greater flexibility in the use of these funds to permit IHEs to better meet students’ needs. The major points are: (1) allowing IHEs to charge pre-award costs back to March 13, 2020; (2) additional guidance on the use of funds for and calculation of lost revenue; and (3) including students who are qualified aliens to receive student aid funding. The guidance documents respond to many of the unanswered questions raised by higher education groups including ACE and NASFAA. 

Read More >> <p>New HEERF Guidance Adds Flexibility, Extends Time Period for Institutions&rsquo; Costs and Lost Revenue</p>

Federal Government to Issue Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Colleges and Universities

January 22, 2021

By Philip J. Zaccheo

Yesterday, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers. Among other things, the executive order instructs the U.S. Department of Education to develop and provide “evidence-based guidance to institutions of higher education on safely re-opening for in person learning,” as well as related advice to institutions on matters including distance and other means of delivering curricular content, and the promotion of mental health and social-emotional well-being. In developing its guidance, the Department is directed to consult with institutional officials, students, educators, unions and families. 

Read More >> <p>Federal Government to Issue Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Colleges and Universities</p>

New Guidance from IRS on Treatment of CARES Act Payments to Students

December 17, 2020

By Jane M. Sovern, Gail M. Norris, and Philip J. Zaccheo

On Dec. 14, 2020, the IRS added guidance to its FAQs on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and Emergency Financial Aid Grants under the CARES Act, clarifying that higher education institutions are not required to report these emergency financial aid grants to students on Form 1098-T. 

Read More >> <p>New Guidance from IRS on Treatment of CARES Act Payments to Students</p>

CDC Releases New COVID-19 Guidance for Colleges and Universities with Focus on Testing

October 7, 2020

By Barbara A. Lee, Ph.D.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance earlier this year on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. That earlier guidance did not recommend testing of students or employees. Many colleges and universities followed that guidance, and when some of them reopened this fall, they saw substantial outbreaks of the disease. The CDC has since then changed its guidance.

Read More >> <p>CDC Releases New COVID-19 Guidance for Colleges and Universities with Focus on Testing</p>

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Issues Guidance on Student Foreign Travel

October 7, 2020

By Barbara A. Lee, Ph.D.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for institutions whose students are planning international travel or participation in study abroad programs. 

The Guidance suggests that colleges and universities “consider postponing or canceling student international travel programs” because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in a number of international destinations. The Guidance suggests that “students may face unpredictable circumstances, such as travel restrictions, challenges returning home, and challenges accessing health care while abroad.”

Read More >> <p>Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Issues Guidance on Student Foreign Travel</p>

Additional COVID-19 Requirements for New York Higher Education Institutions

September 2, 2020

On August 28, 2020, the New York State Department of Health released supplemental guidance for COVID-19 containment at higher education institutions. In addition to complying with the state’s reopening guidance, all higher education institutions in New York state are required to comply with this supplemental guidance. 

The supplemental guidance provides when, and for how long, an institution must restrict in-person learning and on-campus activities as a result of COVID-19 infection rates. The guidance provides the minimum thresholds that institutions must adhere to, but local health departments and institutions may establish stricter thresholds.

Whenever the lesser of 100 individuals or 5% of the total on-campus population at an institution location tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, the location must immediately, for a period of at least 14 days: 

  • Deliver all classes remotely;
  • Convert campus dining and food services options to takeout/delivery only; and
  • Suspend in-person athletics, extracurricular programs, and non-essential student activities.

However, an institution, in consultation with the local health department, may conduct certain clinical, laboratory or other in-person activity required to obtain or maintain a professional licensure, or research activity which must be conducted in-person, only if public health and safety can be maintained. 

During this two-week period, residential facilities must remain open. Only those students identified as contacts of a positive case are required to quarantine, and only positive cases will be ordered into isolation. If the institution decides to close for the semester or academic year, then the residence halls will be closed. In such instances, institutions may provide limited on-campus housing for students who otherwise lack access to secure housing, if approved by the local health department. 

For purposes of computing the threshold, the total on-campus population includes all students, faculty and staff who are on the campus location. Students, faculty or staff who test positive for COVID-19 prior to arrival on campus, as well as those who test positive while quarantined due to out-of-state travel restrictions prior to participation in on-campus activities are not counted. An institution location refers to a self-contained location or campus of a given institution. 

Even if the institution has fewer than 100 individuals or less than 5% of the total on-campus population who have tested positive for COVID-19 over a 14-day period, local health departments retain the ability to restrict in-person learning as the situation may warrant. Particularly, if the local health department, in consultation with the New York State Department of Health (DOH), finds that at any time a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases exceeds the institution’s ability to contact trace, quarantine or isolate, it can require the institution to transition all in-person learning to remote and limit on-campus activities. 

After 14 days, the local health department will evaluate the institution’s efforts to contain COVID-19 infections. If the local health department, in consultation with the DOH, determines that the institution has effectively contained the spread of COVID-19, then the location will be authorized to reopen for in-person learning. If the institution has not demonstrated it has effectively contained the spread of COVID-19, then the local health department may require a continued suspension of in-person learning. 

If you have any questions about the information presented here, please contact any attorney in Bond’s Higher Education practice or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact. 

ICE Reverses Course Again – International Students May Now Attend Online-Only Institutions in the U.S. During the Fall 2020 Semester

July 15, 2020

By Joanna L. Silver

As we reported last week, on July 6, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant students attending schools operating entirely online were not permitted to remain in the U.S. and take a full online course load during the fall 2020 semester. As a result of this directive, students in the U.S. currently enrolled in entirely online schools and/or programs for the fall 2020 semester would have had to depart the U.S. or transfer to another institution with in-person instruction to remain in valid student status. Further, this modification would have applied: (i) where a school pivoted from in-person or hybrid instruction to online-only instruction mid-semester (like what occurred during the spring 2020 semester); and/or (ii) where a nonimmigrant student changed their course selections from a combination of in-person and online courses to online-only courses. 

Read More >> <p>ICE Reverses Course Again &ndash; International Students May Now Attend Online-Only Institutions in the U.S. During the Fall 2020 Semester</p>

Reopening Higher Education

June 22, 2020

By Gail M. Norris

On Saturday, June 20, the state released Interim Guidance on Reopening and Operating Higher Education Campuses. As with prior industry guidance, institutions of higher education (IHEs) will need to adopt a Safety Plan that meets state guidance. The Interim Guidance outlines the following considerations that should be used in developing a Safety Plan for campuses.

Read More >> <p>Reopening Higher Education</p>

Business Immigration in the Era of COVID-19 Update: Presidential Proclamations, Travel Restrictions, Resumption of Premium Processing and the Reopening of USCIS

June 2, 2020

By Joanna L. Silver

As we reported in our recent information memo, COVID-19 has created an evolving immigration environment. The related federal agencies and the White House have responded with a number of temporary policy and procedural changes to help minimize the spread of the virus in the U.S. and to help employers comply with various laws during this extremely challenging time. It remains essential for employers to maintain immigration compliance during the COVID-19 emergency and to take the steps necessary to maintain the nonimmigrant status and work authorization of their foreign national employees. In addition, now that businesses and organizations are beginning to reopen pursuant to government guidelines, employers are advised to keep abreast of the latest legal developments and various obligations they may have over the next few months as we slowly return to our workplaces.

Read More >> <p>Business Immigration in the Era of COVID-19 Update: Presidential Proclamations, Travel Restrictions, Resumption of Premium Processing and the Reopening of USCIS</p>

Strict Reporting Requirements and Taxability Information for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students

May 7, 2020

By Monica C. Barrett, Jane M. Sovern, and Philip J. Zaccheo

Here are two breaking developments we do not want you to miss. On May 6, 2020, the same day the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued its sweeping Title IX Final Rule, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid announced that all recipients of funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act must post on their primary websites specific details about how they allocated funding for emergency grants to students. This posting must be done within 30 days of receipt of the funds from the federal government. 

Read More >> <p>Strict Reporting Requirements and Taxability Information for Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students</p>