Senators Markey and Brown Call on Department of Education to Allow Colleges to Continue Distance Learning, Institute Reporting Requirements


Urge agency to extend review requirement waivers through the summer and the coming 2020-2021 academic year in light of continuing pandemic


Washington (May 15, 2020) – Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called on the Department of Education to continue flexibility for colleges and universities to implementing distance education programs during the coronavirus pandemic, while also calling on the agency to require institutions to report information about their transitions to distance education. In response to the public health emergency, institutions of higher education have been forced to close their doors, send students home, and transition for the first time to comprehensive online learning. On March 3 and April 5 the Department of Education issued and updated guidance that waived its and accreditors’ distance education review requirements, to allow institutions to quickly transition to online classes while maintaining eligibility for federal financial support. The waiver, however, applied only to programs that begin on or between March 5 and June 1, 2020. The Senators are calling on the agency to immediately extend these waivers through the summer and the coming 2020-2021 academic year.


“If the Department does not extend this waiver, schools will be forced to decide between immediately re-opening on an entirely in person basis or failing to qualify for federal financial aid; the Department must not force institutions to make that choice,” write the Senators in the letter. “To that end, we ask that, as the Department extends the distance education review waiver, it include reporting requirements and other guardrails to ensure the integrity of distance education programs.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.


The Senators also urged Education Department to ensure students are still receiving quality educational offerings through distance learning. The Senators proposed simple reporting requirements and guardrails to provide public oversight and maintain the integrity of distance education programs during the coronavirus crisis.