Potential Impact of US DOE Guidance on Education Abroad

Dear Forum Member,

We are writing to alert our Members to the information contained in the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Dear Colleague Letter guidance on “(GEN-23-03) Requirements and Responsibilities for Third-Party Servicers and Institutions” that was issued on Wednesday, February 15, and updated on Tuesday, February 28. The public comment period was extended until Tuesday, March 28, and the guidance will take effect on Friday, September 1, 2023.

The potential negative impact of this guidance on study abroad cannot be overstated.

The proposed guidance states that Title IV funding cannot be used by students “if the servicer (or its subcontractors) is located outside of the United States or is owned or operated by an individual who is not a U.S. citizen or national or a lawful U.S. permanent resident. This prohibition applies to both foreign and domestic institutions.” Once the guidance takes effect, “Institutions will be required to report any arrangements with third-party servicers that have not been reported to the Department, and entities meeting the definition of a third-party servicer will be required to submit the Third-Party Servicer Data Form to the Department by that date.”

The inclusion of anyone providing instructional course content is a newly expansive view of Third Party Servicers. As described in CooleyLLP’s analysis, the key additions to the list of functions that constitute TPS activities impacting study abroad include:

  • Delivering instruction,
  • Assessing student learning, or
  • Developing curricula or course materials.

The guidance also provides detailed information about liability, contracts, and reporting that may impact colleges and education abroad organizations.

The Forum has taken the following actions:

  1. Arranged for a webinar briefing for Forum Members on Friday, March 17. Register here.
  2. Collected and shared information with numerous Forum Members.
  3. Reached out to other associations to coordinate a response.

We will continue to advocate for our Members by:

  1. Taking part in outreach to the Department of Education to offer feedback and to advocate for making education abroad accessible to every student, regardless of financial need.
  2. Advocating for the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad and our Members’ ability to offer high-quality education abroad programs.
  3. Updating Members on new developments as they occur.

We encourage all Members to immediately contact their leadership, Legal Counsel, Federal Relations, and other colleagues at their organization or institution to assess the impact of this guidance on their campus, partners, and students.

The Forum is vigilantly monitoring this situation and will share additional advice, as it becomes available.


Melissa Torres
President & CEO