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August 6, 2020
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JP O'Hare

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State Education Department Issues Guidance to Assist New York State Colleges and Universities as They Reopen

The New York State Education Department today released guidance to assist institutions of higher education in planning for a safe and orderly return to educational operations—whether remote, in person, or a combination of the two. This guidance, which the Board of Regents and Department developed in consultation with the higher education community, will help ensure institutions have the information and regulatory flexibilities necessary to develop and implement creative solutions to their unique campus circumstances.

“As we developed this guidance, we were mindful that COVID-19 has had a particularly harmful effect on people of color and those that are economically disadvantaged – in terms of health, employment, and their ability to receive the supports and resources necessary for a successful college experience,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “As colleges shifted to off-campus learning models, many students from low-income and rural communities did not have access to the internet, technology, or the supports they need to meaningfully participate in remote learning. This kind of unequal access to resources only serves to strengthen the Regents’ resolve to ensure digital  equity for all students.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on New York, and many of our public and private colleges were among the hardest hit in the country,” said Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe. “My thanks and admiration are extended to the students, faculty, leaders, and the entire higher education community for adapting and working collaboratively to overcome the unprecedented challenges we faced in the spring and summer semesters and hope that this comprehensive guidance document, which was informed by a collaborative engagement with the field, will assist each campus community as they plan for reopening this fall.”

The guidance was informed by four regional meetings, which were conducted virtually between July 2 and July 9, 2020. Each regional meeting included more than 130 participants—faculty, administrators, students, and other interested parties—representing the public, non-profit, and for-profit higher education sectors. In all, almost 900 stakeholders representing approximately 171 IHEs from throughout New York's diverse higher education community attended and provided valuable feedback.

The guidance document provides resources for IHEs to access as they plan for reopening; summaries of recent regulatory changes to help reduce the burden on IHEs during this unprecedented time; and summaries of comments made at the regional meetings, in the areas of:

  • Health and Safety;
  • Academics, Student Support Services and Financial Aid;
  • Clinical Experiences and Examinations for Educator Certification;
  • Clinical Experiences and Examinations for Professional Licensing;
  • Opportunity Programs;
  • Postsecondary Students with Disabilities;
  • Budget and Fiscal Matters; and
  • Data Reporting.