The Department appreciates that postsecondary institutions and their students face unique and urgent circumstances as a result of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This announcement provides information specific to Cohort Default Rates (CDRs) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) community service requirements and provides for flexibilities due to the declaration of the COVID-19 national emergency.
Cohort Default Rates
On February 24, 2020, we posted an Electronic Announcement that informed institutions that we had distributed draft CDRs for FY 2017, and informed schools of the timelines associated with appealing those draft rates. On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States declared a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak in his “Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak,” Proclamation 9994, Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 53 at 15337-38. Because of challenges institutions are facing in accessing data and preparing their appeals in this time of national emergency, we intend to exercise our authority under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students (HEROES) Act of 2003, 20 U.S.C. § 1098bb, to extend the deadline for institutions to submit appeals to the draft FY 2017 CDRs to June 30, 2020. A notice to that effect will be forthcoming in the Federal Register.
FWS Community Service Expenditure Requirements
A school that participates in the FWS Program is required to expend at least seven percent (7%) of its FWS federal allocation to pay the federal share of wages to students employed in community service jobs in an award year. A school is also expected to provide the institutional share of wages to students employed in community service jobs. In addition, one or more of the school’s FWS students must be employed as a reading tutor for children in a reading tutoring project or performing family literacy activities in a family literacy project. 34 CFR 675.18(g)(1).
To reduce the burden on schools, and in recognition that some community service employment opportunities may be disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we intend to exercise our authority under the HEROES Act to grant a waiver of the FWS community service requirements described above to all FWS-participating schools for the 2019–20 and 2020–21 award years. A notice to that effect will be forthcoming in the Federal Register. No action needs to be initiated by schools in order to request the waiver for either award year. Whether or not a school applied for the waiver by the stated deadline, or previously applied for a waiver and was denied, is immaterial. Waivers will not be issued to all schools through the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System, but will be administratively granted to all schools.
We encourage school communities to take all appropriate steps to ensure the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. If you have questions about the information provided in this announcement or you are encountering a scenario that we have not addressed, please email the Department at COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. In response to questions from the postsecondary community, the Department has also established FAQs that we will update periodically.
We established the webpage https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus to provide general information for school communities, including links to information posted by the CDC, and as the location for the Department’s announcements. We encourage institutions to refer frequently to these informational resources.