US Department of Education 150% Rule Update

A Texas federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction that halts the enforcement of the US Department of Education’s (ED) new Bare Minimum Rule, also known as the “100% rule,” until the court takes further action. The judge’s decision hails from the suit filed by Career Education Colleges and Universities and other plaintiffs.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed to prevent the implementation of the Bare Minimum Rule, which would bring an end to the era of allowing schools to offer programs up to 150% of a state’s minimum hour education requirement while still receiving certain federal funds on July 1 of this year.

This is only the first step in what could be a lengthy battle to ultimately delay enforcement of the rule, providing schools more time to adjust their programmatic standards, or overturn the rule altogether. ED is expected to appeal this ruling. Another suit for temporary relief, also filed in Texas, was denied.

The fact that two separate lawsuits filed in Texas have produced conflicting initial federal court responses illustrates the uncertainty around how courts will ultimately rule on both the “bare minimum” versus “150%” program length issue and other aspects of the gainful employment proposed rules revisions. That is why ASCP is concentrating its government relations efforts on assisting states as they reconsider their minimum required program education hours, ensuring they are prepared for any outcome.

Fortunately, state-level esthetics program minimum education requirements have evolved into a pattern that will be less disrupted by new ED regulations than is the case for some other complementary professions, even if the various lawsuits ultimately fail. A strong complement of 29 states—plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands—currently have 600-hour education minimums and an additional 13 states have minimums ranging from 650 to 1,000 hours.

Esthetic students in programs matching state minimums will continue to fully qualify for Pell Grants and Title IV loans. Only programs with a length exceeding state minimums will have to reduce program hours. That leaves Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin with minimum education requirements that fall below the 600-hour threshold for federal aid. Florida is home to numerous skin care programs, some meeting a 220-hour minimum standard; others have a more robust 400-hour alternative. On the surface, it appears that many Florida programs do not rely on federal government aid for their students and, therefore, will not be impacted by new ED regulations. A few Florida esthetic programs might be impacted, as will also be the case in other states that have current minimums below 600 hours. These could be candidates for legislative or regulatory fixes to raise required education minimums.

It is important to note that among the states increasing minimum hour requirements, so far none have mandated additional education for currently licensed skin care professionals. ASCP will make retaining that status a core priority anywhere hours for new skin care students may be increased.

Meanwhile, keep your ears open for news as the courts decide how they will move forward with the lawsuits. ASCP will be monitoring the situation closely and will keep you updated as it progresses.

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