Fall 2020
Top Story

Virtual is the New Normal for Fall
Colleges and universities had been refining their reopening plans since spring. Students, faculty, and administrators were looking forward to a return to normal face-to-face instruction. By August, however, it had become clear that in person instruction would be the exception rather than the rule. Rising infection rates caused administrators to adopt plans for fully virtual or hybrid instruction.

In choosing between face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid instruction, one of the critical variables administrators consider is the infection rates. This is especially important for HBCUs because the virus has hit minority communities hard. Administrators must consider not only the rates on campus but also the rates in the surrounding community, and in students' hometowns as well. Institutions that enroll students from current hotspots tread carefully, requiring or strongly recommending a 14 day quarantine prior to joining the campus community. Mandatory testing for resident students and those enrolled in classes that meet for face-to-face sessions is the norm. 

Institutions have used signage to aid social distancing, staggered move-in scheduling, slashed occupancy to a fraction of capacity, and banned non-essential visitation and travel. They have also embraced ed tech and hi tech solutions including antimicrobial paint and mobile apps. Several HBCUs have installed body scanners that take temperatures and identify faces. When a person who has a fever is detected at an entrance, the door will remain locked and the system will send out an alert. The facial scan is used to restrict access to authorized individuals who have normal body temperatures. 

For the most part, HBCUs have kept their plans for on-campus living and in person learning flexible. They are offering mixtures of face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid instruction, with full online options for high risk or immunocompromised students. That flexibility combined with student cooperation seems to have helped keep HBCU infection rates low compared to other institutions, even in the same state.

Not all institutions have been open about infection rates. While institutions must provide information about COVID-19 under the Clery Act, they are not required to disclose the number of cases on their campuses and they must be careful not to violate privacy laws. Gadsen State Community College, Fayetteville State,Elizabeth City State, and Fort Valley State Universities and a number of other HBCUs do maintain lists on their websites. Davidson College maintains the College Crisis Initiative which, while it does not tally infection rates, tracks institutions' plans for instruction for fall 2020.
Other News

Private Housing Partner Pressures For Full Occupancy
Student housing developer, Corvias, opposed dormitory de-densification plans. In a letter, the firm asserted that the University System of Georgia does not have the right to implement policies that reduce residencies in student housing, discourage or prevent students from living on campus. The University System said the letter would not influence its decisions. If the pandemic continues to drain debt service reserves, defaults could be on the horizon. Read more.

Title IX Becomes Law
As of August 14, 2020, institutions must comply with the new Title IX rule. The rule requires institutions to employ three separate officials to handle the complaint process, which includes live hearings. Proponents lauded the inclusion of dating and domestic violence. But critics said the measures would be costly and difficult particularly for community colleges. Attorneys general of eighteen states joined forces in an attempt to overturn the law. However, despite the support of advocacy groups, they failed to win injunction that would have delayed implementation. By way of support, the Department of Education launched a Title IX website. At least one group of institutions has formed a consortium to share Title IX resources and facilitate compliance. Read more.

Tuition Freezes and Cuts
Amid widespread unemployment and despite facing their own economic challenges, several institutions have frozen or cut tuition. Hampton University reduced tuition and fees by 15 percent. Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University cut their tuition by ten percent, and reduced campus related fees for the fall. The aforementioned HBCUs are offering online-only instruction this fall. Read more.

FAFSA Verification
A study has found FAFSA verification costs disproportionately harm community colleges, which spend an estimated $225,000,000 to comply with the regulation. The burden seems especially unnecessary since the results rarely impact student award amount. Read more.

COVID Self-Assessment Calculator
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and Tuscany Strategy Consulting partnered to develop a toolkit that colleges and universities can use to  assess the impact the pandemic has had on their institutions and help them with strategic planning. Read more.

Federal Funds Available
Secretary DeVos announced $3,900,000 in grant awards for minority-serving institutions, including ten HBCUs. The awards will be used to improve STEM education. The secretary also announced the launch of the Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity (IREPO) program. IREPO funds will come from the Education Stabilization Fund provisioned by the CARES Act. Priority will be given to Minority-Serving Institutions. Read more.

Higher Ed Financial Fitness
Two analyses of the post-covid viability of post-secondary institutions were published recently. In US Higher Education: Value vs. Vulnerability, New York University Professor Scott Galloway examined reputation, academic vigor, and other variables to determine an institution's vulnerability to the pressures of the pandemic. Similarly, at the Hechinger Report, Pete D’Amato employed the methodology used in the book The College Stress Test to analyze variables such as retention rate and ratio of endowment to total expenses to determine fiscal fitness. You can query his results online. Read more.

Tuskegee University joined RemediChain, an international blockchain consortium. The consortium tracks unused medications, redistributes them to the uninsured and underinsured, and disposes of the remainder safely. Read more.

Hackers Hit Higher Ed Vendor
Blackbaud, a service provider with clients in several countries, was the victim of a ransomeware attack. The vendor was able to stop the attack but was forced to pay a ransom to ensure hackers would delete the stolen data. The hackers reportedly issued a certificate of destruction in exchange for an undisclosed sum. The University of North Carolina System (UNC) is among the many institutions of higher education that use Blackbaud services. UNC issued a press release stating that Blackbaud informed them none of their data was compromised. Read more.

Apple Expands Community Education Initiative
Apple announced it would add 10 HBCU regional coding centers to its roster of HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. The centers bring coding and workforce development opportunities to campuses and surrounding communities. Apple has also worked with Tennessee State University, whose HBCU C2 initiative provides training and support for all HBCUs. Read more.

College Towns Suffer
Communities that thrive around colleges and universities are suffering as the pandemic continues. The National League of Cities University Communities Council, along with the International City/County Management Association and the International Town & Gown Association, hosted a virtual briefing with city leaders from college towns to discuss the economic pressures brought on by the pandemic. Read more.

Cares Act Reporting: The Department of Education (ED) announced that the quarterly reporting requirement can be satisfied through the monthly reporting already required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA). Read more. Institutions will also be required to satisfy additional data to satisfy HEERF reporting requirements.Those reports will be due on January 9, 2021, September 30, 2021, and September 30, 2022. Information required will include a categorized list of how the institutional share was used and details on how the student share was disbursed. Read more. Information about the distribution of the student share of HEERF must be posted to the institution's website and updated every 45 days. Read more.

Update on Fraud Reporting: The email address for the Office of Inspector General used to report fraud rings in no longer valid. To file a report, use the complaint web portal. The report spreadsheet has been updated (Excel). Read more.

Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System Changes: Updates to the COD System include a coronavirus indicator, update edits, modification to the Return of Title IV (R2T4) calculator, addition of the 2021-2022 processing cycle, and updated forms and instructions. Read more.

Deadline Extensions
The deadline for filing the Fiscal Operations Report for 2019-20 and Application to Participate for 2021-22 (FISAP) is extended to November 2, 2020. The deadline for the submission of FISAP edit corrections is December 15, 2020. The December 15, 2020, deadline to submit the Perkins Cash on Hand Update has not been changed. Read more.

The deadline of the Annual Security Report and the Annual Fire Safety Report have been extended to December 31, 2020. Read more.

The deadline for distribution of the annual Equity in Athletics Disclosures has been extended to December 31, 2020. Read more.

The Annual Student Loan Acknowledgement is postponed to 2021. Read more .

The Crime and Fire Survey will be open from November 18, 2020, through January 14, 2021. For assistance contact the campus safety help desk by phone (1-800-435-5985) or email(campussafetyhelp@westat.com). Read more.

Debt Relief for federal student loan borrowers is extended to December 31, 2020. Read more.

Compliance Information
Formulas for the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) are available on the Federal Student Aid Website.

Reporting and Processing for Withdrawn Students whose withdrawals are related to COVID-19 are subject to the provisions of the CARES Act. The Return to Title IV (R2T4) requirements for such students are waived. Additionally, Direct Loan funds received for the period will be cancelled, the period will not count toward the student's subsidized loan limit, and Pell Grant funds received for the period will be excluded from the student’s Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU). Read more.

The Department of Education released an update to its question and answer supplement to clarify the borrower defense rules that are in effect for any eZ-Audit filed on or after July 1, 2020. Read more.

Interest rates for Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loan first disbursed on or after July 1, 2020 and before July 1, 2021 are available. A complete chart was published in the Federal Register.

The TEACH Grant Program was amended to clarify the conditions under which recipients may satisfy the service obligation and provide additional details about the program. Changes go into  effect on July 1, 2021.

Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) forms, required notices, required posters, and optional certification forms are available for download on the Department of Labor website.

Keyholder registration is open on the IPEDS website. Participation in IPEDS is mandatory.

OSHA requires institutions to report COVID cases when the virus was contracted in the workplace. Read more.

Notification of Supplemental Campus-Based Funds for 2020-2021 will be delivered to the financial aid administrator. Note that a FEMA-declared disaster may trigger a redirection of these funds. Read more.

Updated EDESuite Operating System Requirements begin with EDExpress 2021-2022, DL Tools Release 21.0. Starting with the September 2020 release, the EDESuite applications will be supported in Microsoft Windows 10 and Microsoft Windows 8.1 operating system. Windows 7 will no longer be supported. Read more.

Instructions and the desk reference for the new FISAP form are available. Links to software, technical and installation guides, desk references and other tools are also available on the Federal Student Aid website.

Paycheck Protection Program Updates

The Small Business Administration and the Department of the Treasury made the following updates to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The EZ Loan Forgiveness application and instructions are among the PPP downloads available on the Department of the Treasury's website.
Grants, Awards, Gifts
Mackenzie Scott makes historic contributions to HBCUs Scott's donations to organizations that are doing transformative work in areas of need include, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee University, and Xavier University. Read more.

Prairie View A&M University received a $399,931 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an Internet of Things (IoT) innovation laboratory and support IoT innovation at HBCUs. Read more.

Howard University announced it received a $1,000,000 grant from HBO to create an endowed scholarship, Coates-Forbes-Watson-HBO Dream Seekers Endowed Fellowship. The scholarship will help students meet living and travel expenses during internships. Read more.

Jackson State University received a $475,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue research into calculations and methods for safely delivering time-released dosages of medicines in a manner that is safe for healthy cells. Read more.

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), received $400,000 from the US Dept. of Energy to increase minority participation in the energy-related industry and research. ECSU will cooperate with other universities to support curriculum development. Read more.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. launched the Just Project to provide diagnostic instruments, testing kits, and technical assistance to help HBCUs reopen safely. Read more.

Hampton University received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation develop anti-bacterial surfaces for use where bacterial contamination is a concern. Read more.

Dominion Energy announced a $35,000,000 initiative to support 11 HBCUs and HBCU students in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Ohio.Read more.

Xavier University of Louisiana received $20,000,000 gift from an anonymous donor. Read more.

Grambling State University received $500,000 from the National Park Service for renovation of the Foster-Johnson Health Center. Read more.

Prairie View A&M University's College of Business received $250,000 to support scholarships from Charles Schwab Foundation. Read more.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is part of a multi-university investigation into the sustainability of antibiotic-restricted poultry production. The five-year project was awarded a total of $10,000,000 to study the health impact on chickens and consumers and the effect on the environment. Read more.

Claflin University was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Leadership Education at Duke University. The grant will be used to improve the church history archives in the University's library and strengthen the University's leadership academy. Read more.

University of Arkansas Pine Bluff received a $200,000 grant from the Windgate Foundation to defray costs associated with transitioning to remote instruction due to the pandemic. Read more.

Miles College received a five-year $1,300,000 TRIO grant from the Department of Education. The grant will support advising, mentoring, and tutoring for eligible students. Read more.

Wiley College received $20,000 to support its Correctional Education Program. The funds provided by the UNCF and the NFL and will support the program, which operates under the Department of Education's Second Chance Pell program. Read more.

Lincoln and Cheney Universities will share $3,000,000 to support their efforts to reopen safely during the pandemic. The funds were awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and are part of the federal funds given to states under the CARES Act. Read more.

Florida A&M University announced Dr. Eunsook Lee won a $2,400,000 federal research grant to investigate the causes and treatment of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Read more.

HBCUs were among the minority-serving institutions selected to receive grants from NASA to improve participation in engineering. Recipients include: the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Southern University. Read more.

Tuskegee University’s Department of Architecture received $100,000 from the Cooper Carry Charitable Foundation, Inc. to increase minority participation in the architecture profession. Read more.

Spelman College received $10,000,000 gift from Seth and Beth Klarman to support student completion. Read more.

Leadership Changes

Edward Waters College extended the contract of Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr., who has served as president and CEO since 2018. Trustees praised Dr. Faison Jr., for raising admission standards, establishing a center for undergraduate research, and securing accreditor approval for online degree programs Read more.

Fisk University named Dr. Vann Newkirk interim president. Dr. Newkirk was serving as provost at the time of the appointment. Read more.

Jackson State University made three additions to its Department of Enrollment Management. Dr. Harrison Johnson, former associate registrar at Plymouth State University, was named registrar. The former associate director of financial aid at Cheyney University, Mr. Ozie B. Ratcliff, was named director of financial aid. Mr. Marneé Grant, former director of national recruitment and engagement at Relay School of Graduate Education, was named director of undergraduate admissions. Read more.

LeMoyne-Owen College named Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean interim president. Dr. Johnson-Dean is the recipient of the Richard R. Green Award, the nation's highest honor for urban education leadership. She also served as superintendent of Boston Public Schools from 2007-2013. Read more.

Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) Board of Trustees authorized contract negotiation for Dr. Brenda Allen, a Lincoln University alumna, who has served as president since 2017. Read more.

Harris-Stowe State University named Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith provost and vice president of academic affairs. Dr. Collins Smith had been serving as interim provost and chief academic officer. Read more.

Morgan State University named Tara Berrien, J.D., as assistant vice president for diversity and equal employment opportunity (EEO) and Title IX compliance officer. Read more.

Fayetteville State University named Christopher Davis associate vice chancellor for development. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Davis served as associate director of development at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences Foundation. Read more.

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) named Ms. August Mebane associate vice chancellor of human resources. Ms. Mebane comes to WSSU from the Adams School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she served as the chief human resources officer. Read more.

Spelman College named Dr. Tamara Pearson director of the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM. A Spelman alumna, Dr. Pearson returns to the College from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she served as associate director of school and community engagement. Read more.

Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond assumed the presidency of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. She penned an open letter to the higher education community. Read more.

Wiley College named Pamela Fountain-Roberts director of health services. Ms. Roberts, a practicing nurse, comes to Wiley from Community Healthcore in Longview, Texas. Read more.

Fisk University named Dr. Sajid Hussain interim director of sponsored programs. He is an associate professor of computer science. Read more.

Grambling State University named Ms. Tisha D. Arnold university director of communications and Ms. Kellye Blackburn, director of career services.

Alcorn State University announced Dr. Donzell Lee has retired after 45 years of service. Dr. Lee served in various positions, including a stint as interim president. Mr. Willie Moses has also retired after 45 years of service. He was the director for the James L. Bolden Campus Union.


Ms. Tenyo Pearl, director of the Non-Profit Leadership Alliance at Coppin State University, was inducted into the Daily Record's 2020 list of Maryland's Top 100 Women Circle of Excellence. Coppin State University offers a bachelor's degree in non-profit leadership. Read more.

Dr. Janice R. Franklin, dean of library and learning resources at Alabama State University, was awarded the Ann Barnett Service Award by Texas Woman's University. Dr. Franklin chairs the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries and is a member of the University of Alabama School of Library Information Studies Advisory Board. Read more.

Lincoln University (MO) surpassed its annual fund raising campaign goal. The University raised over $1,000,000 more than the campaign target. Read more.

Morehouse College's, Associate Vice President of Student Financial Services Ms. Charmaine Daniels received the National Association of College and University Business Officers' (NACUBO) 2020 Student Financial Services Award. Read more.

Associate Professor Jervette R. Ward was elected president of the College Language Association (CLA). The CLA is a national association that serves the academic, scholarly, and professional interests of African Americans in academia. Her term will begin in 2022. Read more.

Ali Fares, Ph.D. of Prairie View A&M University (PVAM) was named a fellow by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). It is the highest recognition the ASS, an international society, bestows. Read more.

The American College of Financial Services announced it will award 15 scholarships to HBCU students to promote diversity in the financial services profession. Read more.

Across the Sector HBCUs continue to go the extra mile for their students. They are providing equipment, internet hotspots, COVID testing, and access to mental health resources. Several institutions froze or reduced tuition and fees and at least one forgave student debt.

Winston-Salem State University announced tenure awards and promotions for 16 faculty members. Read more.

St. Philip’s College President, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, was selected to serve on the Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women. Read more.

In the Media:
Mathematics professors Dr. Delayne Johnson and Dr. Matthew Tanzy penned an article featured in the Delaware Business Times. The article provided insights in successful online learning. • An article written by Dr. Walter Kimbrough appeared in the Advocate. The article explored various contributions of HBCU graduates. • Dr. Leroy Staggers, president of Morris College, was interviewed by Carolina Panorama for an article on the impact of the coronavirus. • ABC Nightline interviewed Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University for a segment that explores the fall semester reopening during the pandemic. • National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president of Huston-Tillotson University about her decision to keep her campus closed this fall. • The HBCU Advocate interviewed  Dr. William Harvey about the financial impact of the pandemic on Hampton University. • The views of HBCU Presidents Dr. Michael Sorrell (Paul Quinn College) and Suzanne Elise Walsh, JD, (Bennett College) were mentioned in an article in USA Today. • Dr. Komanduri S. Murty, professor and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Fort Valley State University, was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Education and Social Science Journal and asked to contribute to the SAGE Encyclopedia of Multicultural Counseling, Social Justice, and Advocacy. • Prairie View A&M was the featured as a model in the webinar The Modern Campus: How to Succeed at Digital Transformation


Miles College will offer online bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Psychology. The business administration program is geared toward working professionals. The psychology program will provide hands-on-training for aspiring mental health professionals. Read more.

Morgan State entered into a five-year agreement with the Tertiary Education Trust Fund of Nigeria to create a pathway for students and researchers. Graduates from public tertiary institutions in Nigeria will be able to enroll in Morgan State University's Ph.D. programs. Similarly, postdoctoral researchers will be able to conduct research at Morgan. Morgan students and faculty will be eligible to do the same at public institutions in Nigeria. Read more.

Albany State University signed an articulation agreement with Columbus Technical College to create a pathway for students seeking four year degrees in nursing and a variety of other fields. The agreement facilitates the transfer of over 20 associate degrees to Albany State's bachelor of science of bachelor of applied science degree programs, including accounting, engineering, and cybersecurity. Read more.

The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff launched a master’s degree in educational leadership (M.Ed.) program. The program is designed for teacher who want to pursue a career in administration. Read more.

Tennessee State University launched a program to streamline the pathway to a veterinary degree. The program is based upon the agreement between TSU and the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. The program ensures to facilitate the transition of TSU grads to veterinary school. Read more.


Esports League for HBCUs
An esports league for HBCUs will kickoff soon. It is being organized by Twitch, a subsidiary of Amazon that hosts a streaming gaming platform, Cxmmunity, a nonprofit focused on increasing minority participation in esports, Rod Chappell, CEO of the marketing firm HBCU Direct, and the Collegiate StarLeague. The new league will provide opportunities for HBCU students to participate in this lucrative field. Organizers say they hope to build a pipeline for Black talent in the industry. Read more.

Rare Heart Condition Linked to COVID is causing concern among collegiate sports administrators. At least five collegiate athletes have been diagnosed with inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), fueling concern over the risks to student athletes. Read more.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has published a scheduling model for spring 2021. Each institution has the ability to opt out of competition. Read more.

Shaw University announced Dr. Alfonza Carter, athletic director, has retired after 40 years of service. Dr. Carter is succeeded by Mr. George Knox, associate director of athletics at Winston-Salem State University. Read more.

Bluefield State College announced it will compete in 12 new sports beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year. The College is recruiting coaches and anticipates the addition of these sports will attract new students. Read more.

SWAC Releases Football Schedules for Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. and other members.


Event:Campus Technology Distance Learning Summit
Date:On Demand
Information:Launch Webinar

Event:Network Security 2020
Date:September 20-25, 2020
Location:Las Vegas, NV or Online
Information:Course List

Event:Higher education Title IX decision-maker training
Date:October 1, 2020

Event:WCET Annual Meeting
Date:October 6-November 12, 2020

Event:EDUCAUSE Annual Conference
Date:October 27-29, 2020
Location:Boston, MA or Online

Event: 2020 FSA Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals
Date:December 1-4, 2020

WPG Special Report

Compliance During the Pandemic

Institutions of higher education, particularly small private colleges, should take extra care to ensure they are compliant with applicable regulations during this national emergency. Compliance and processes should be documented.


Some regulations have been temporarily waived or modified to afford relief during the pandemic. For example, the federal government has suspended enforcement of HIPAA penalties in certain instances. However, the federal government is actively enforcing other regulations. For example, the Department of Education was unwilling to postpone implementing a Title IX rule that was likely to prove burdensome for smaller institutions.


The privacy of citizens is protected through a patchwork of laws regulating the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) including, state laws, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). To varying degrees, these laws are applicable to colleges and universities. The following is a brief look at some of them.



The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy rights of students. Under normal circumstances, an institution is prohibited from disclosing a student's PII. However, if an institution determines that there is a critical need to disclose a student’s PII to protect health and safety, it may proceed under the Health or Safety Emergency Exception. This allows disclosure on a need to know basis without prior consent from the student or the student’s parents. The exception must be applied on a case by case basis. The disclosure should be limited in scope to the minimum amount of information necessary to mitigate the problem. It is the institution's responsibility to determine if the need is valid, how much information is needed, and to whom that information should be disclosed.


Protecting student privacy while using online educational services (ed tech) is difficult. Institutions must determine if the data they collect is considered PII. If it is, steps must be taken to ensure the data is transmitted and stored securely.


Protecting student privacy while answering health inquiries is another concern exacerbated by the pandemic. FERPA does not prohibit institutions from disclosing that “students” have tested positive for COVID or may have COVID. However, FERPA restricts institutions from directly or indirectly disclosing the identities and other PII of any student. The institution may inform the public and alert those who were in contact with the student but must do so without naming that student. In the event that a foreign public agency requests PII, disclosure is permissible if necessity is proven. Institutions are required to document whenever they release PII under the Health or Saftey emergency exception. They must document what they have disclosed, why they have disclosed it, and to whom it was disclosed.


As outbreaks occur on campus, care must be taken to protect students' PII when dealing with the media. Photos or videos that show a student having a health emergency or display PII, such as a student ID, are part of a student's education record. As such, they are protected under FERPA. Nonconsensual disclosure to the media is not allowed.



Generally speaking, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governs the privacy rights of administrators, faculty, staff and other non students. It does not apply to students as in most cases, even if a student is treated in the university's clinic, his health record would be considered part of his education record and thus fall under FERPA.


Under HIPAA institutions can disclose protected health information (PHI) without patient authorization to those at risk of contracting or spreading a disease. A response to a foreign request for PHI is permissible with written authorization and provided it is directed by a US public health authority.



The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) governs how institutions handle student financial records and associated PII. There are two components to the GLBA: the Privacy Rule and the Safeguards Rule. The provisions of the privacy rule are similar to FERPA. If an institution is found compliant with FERPA, they are deemed to be in compliance with GLBA’s Privacy Rule as well.


  The Safeguards Rule holds institutions responsible for implementing sound measures to keep student data secure from cyberattack. It also makes institutions responsible for ensuring that their affiliates and service providers have the necessary safeguards in place to protect student data. GBLA requires institutions to:

  • Have a written information security policy
  • Designate the employee or employees responsible for coordinating and implanting the program
  • Perform a risk assessment
  • Design and implement information safeguards to mitigate the risks
  • Select service providers that are capable of maintaining appropriate safeguards
  • Periodically evaluate and update its security program

Federal Student Aid (FSA) requires compliance with GLBA be audited as part of the mandated annual audit. For more information consult the FSA cybersecurity compliance webpage.



The Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires colleges and universities to encrypt cardholder data and protect networks from costly data breaches. When the pandemic caused students and employees work from home, under potentially less secure conditions, the Security Standards Council took steps to help institutions. The council publishes a reference guide and maintains a webpage for pandemic related updates online.


Other Privacy Laws

  All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have data breach notification laws making it mandatory that entities notify individuals whose PII has been compromised. California's privacy law (CCPA) is perhaps the strictest and although most institutions are probably exempt, they may still be required to comply if their ed tech vendors are required to comply.


In fact institutions may be required to comply with the laws of several states as well as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As data breaches have escalated at colleges and universities, the maze of regulations has grown more complex. While compliance cannot guarantee a breach won't occur, it can protect an institution from fines and penalties.


More information on compliance with privacy laws can be found online. The following resources may be helpful.

About This Publication
WPG HBCU News is a monthly email published by the Wesley Peachtree Group, CPAs (WPG). It provides short summaries of news articles, government regulations, and announcements found online.

WPG HBCU News is available at no cost to HBCU administrators, trustees, and senior stakeholders. It is not intended as legal or financial advice. WPG's staff, writers, publishers, web hosts, e-mail distributors, and others involved with the production and presentation of this newsletter are not liable for errors, omissions, losses, injuries, or damages arising directly or indirectly from use of this newsletter or any information presented therein.

WPG is a full-service accounting firm with clients in the private business, education, government, faith-based, and not-for-profit sectors. We specialize in higher-education with a particular emphasis on minority-serving institutions. Our support for HBCUs includes the WPG HBCU News (this publication) and the Annual WPG HBCU Forum.
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