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ED Releases Guidance Regarding Standard Term Length

November 8, 2019

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PRESS CONTACTS
Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

The Department of Education (ED) Nov. 5 released new guidance regarding the federal definition of academic year. The new guidance changes the definition of standard term, which will help medical schools reduce barriers for curriculum innovation and timely disburse federal student aid.

The Department’s revised guidelines follow an AAMC Jan. 11 letter, which highlighted the need for “the Department to clarify that medical education programs may be considered standard term for financial aid purposes, regardless of whether their academic calendar would otherwise be considered nonstandard or nonterm.”

The new guidance states:

  • Semesters and trimesters are to be between 14 and 21 weeks of instruction.
  • Quarters may now be between nine and 13 weeks of instruction.
  • Standard terms are no longer required to be of substantially equal in length.

The new policy retains current guidance that exempts clinical work conducted outside the classroom from the standard term definition, permits the use of modules within terms for longitudinal courses, and requires an academic year to be at least 30 weeks.

The AAMC letter noted that “medical schools want to ensure student success throughout the entire curriculum, including clinical rotations and licensing examinations, but they often struggle to balance meeting accreditation requirements while disbursing federal financial aid to students under current FSA guidelines.” Upon the guidance’s release, ED highlighted how “this change will increase opportunities for institutions to offer unique and innovative academic programs, which are better catered toward workforce needs.”

The revised guidance is effective immediately.

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