Posted Date: July 23, 2019

Author:  Office of Postsecondary Education

Subject: Checking the Validity of a Student’s High School Completion

This Electronic Announcement provides clarification regarding the role that institutions have in checking the validity of a student’s high school completion as required under 34 CFR 668.16(p).

Final regulations published on October 29, 2010 (Program Integrity Issues, 75 Fed. Reg. 66831) require institutions to develop and follow procedures to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school completion if the institution or the Secretary has reason to believe that the high school diploma is not valid or was not obtained from an entity that provides secondary school education. 

If an institution establishes and follows a process to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school completion that includes (1) receiving documentation from the secondary school that confirms the validity of the student’s diploma, and (2) confirming with or receiving documentation from the relevant department or agency in the state in which the secondary school is located that the secondary school is recognized as a provider of secondary school education, then the institution is in compliance with 34 CFR 668.16(p).

Although institutions may satisfy the requirements of 34 CFR 668.16(p) by establishing and following a process that meets this description, they may also satisfy the requirements of 34 CFR 668.16(p) in other ways that do not meet this description. In order to satisfy 34 CFR 668.16(p) an institution need only “develop and follow procedures to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school completion if the institution or the Secretary has reason to believe that the high school diploma is not valid or was not obtained from an entity that provides secondary school education.” The Department clarifies today that a process that meets the two-part description above satisfies this requirement, and also clarifies that other approaches used by institutions are still valid to the extent they comply with the language of 34 CFR 668.16(p).

For example, the Department recognizes that this safe harbor provision will not apply to students who completed high school at a secondary school that is not required to be recognized by the relevant department or agency in the state in which the school is located. The Department encourages institutions to consider alternative processes for checking the validity of high school completion for such students.

Nothing in this electronic announcement shall be construed as providing a safe harbor for an institution or an individual involved in this process against claims of fraud or prosecution for criminal activity.

If you have questions about this announcement, please contact Aaron Washington at aaron.washington@ed.gov.

   

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