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Higher Education Institutions and COVID-19: Guidance and Resources for Colleges and Universities

April 3, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically impacted colleges and universities of all sizes. In the past month, most colleges and universities across the country have moved to remote learning in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of their campus communities. More recently, some colleges and universities have also taken various other steps, such as providing students with pro-rata refunds for housing, meals and other fees, extending spring break, shifting to a Pass/Fail grading system, extending remote instruction throughout the spring semester and into the summer, and cancelling or postponing all in-person events, including commencement and athletic events as well prospective and admitted students’ days and tours.

At the same time, institutions are being inundated with federal, state, and local laws, regulations and, executive orders that are constantly evolving and being distributed daily. Various federal and state agencies as well as other membership organizations have provided information and guidelines to assist higher education institutions during this unprecedented time. Below are links to these new laws, orders, guidance and informational sites.

Federal Laws: The federal government has enacted various new laws and directives, including but not limited to:

New York State: Governor Cuomo has issued numerous Executive Orders and has enacted legislation, setting forth various new rules that New Yorkers must follow during the pandemic, including but not limited to:

  • Executive Order No. 202.8 (March 20, 2020)
    • Requiring that all non-essential businesses and not-for-profits must telecommute or work from home to the safest highest possible extent. The in-person workforce for any non-essential business or not-for profit at any location must be reduced to 0% by March 22 at 8 p.m.
  • Executive Order No. 202.10 (March 23, 2020)
    • Prohibiting all “non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events)” at this time.
  • Executive Order No. 202.11 (March 27, 2020)
    • Permitting nursing graduates to practice under required supervision for 180 days following graduation. The Order also suspends the 30-day requirement for submission of certificates of residence to community colleges in New York State, and allows for electronic mail and mail by post applications for certificates of residence in every county for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. The Order further allows pharmacists to practice at alternative locations.
  • NY COVID-19 Sick Leave Law (March 18, 2020)
    • Setting forth immediate requirements for employers regarding benefits for eligible employees who are subject to mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.

The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC): Since the beginning of March, the CDC has provided specific guidance for institutions of higher education to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

The U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE): The U.S. DOE has established a website completely dedicated to guidance and other resources for all educational institutions, including institutions of higher education: U.S. DOE: COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel. Other sites include,

New York State Education Department (NYSED): Like the U.S. DOE, NYSED has created a website to provided information and guidance for institutions of higher education: NYSED: Information and Guidance for Colleges and Universities In Response to the COVID-19 Emergency. Other sites include,

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC has provided guidance on how employers can prepare:

Accreditors: various regional and programmatic accreditors have provided guidelines and helpful information:

Other Organizations: These organizations have also provided guidance and helpful information:

If you have questions regarding any aspects of higher education law and the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic to your college or university, please feel free to contact Dina L. Vespia at (516) 357-3726 or via email at or Hayley B. Dryer at (516) 357-3745 or via email at

Please note that this is a general overview of developments in the law and does not constitute legal advice. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the sender and recipient.

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