View all text of Subpart A [§ 600.1 - § 600.12]

§ 600.2 - Definitions.

Link to an amendment published at 87 FR 65485, Oct. 28, 2022.

The following definitions apply to terms used in this part:

Academic engagement: Active participation by a student in an instructional activity related to the student's course of study that -

(1) Is defined by the institution in accordance with any applicable requirements of its State or accrediting agency;

(2) Includes, but is not limited to -

(i) Attending a synchronous class, lecture, recitation, or field or laboratory activity, physically or online, where there is an opportunity for interaction between the instructor and students;

(ii) Submitting an academic assignment;

(iii) Taking an assessment or an exam;

(iv) Participating in an interactive tutorial, webinar, or other interactive computer-assisted instruction;

(v) Participating in a study group, group project, or an online discussion that is assigned by the institution; or

(vi) Interacting with an instructor about academic matters; and

(3) Does not include, for example -

(i) Living in institutional housing;

(ii) Participating in the institution's meal plan;

(iii) Logging into an online class or tutorial without any further participation; or

(iv) Participating in academic counseling or advisement.

Accredited: The status of public recognition that a nationally recognized accrediting agency grants to an institution or educational program that meets the agency's established requirements.

Additional location: A facility that is geographically apart from the main campus of the institution and at which the institution offers at least 50 percent of a program and may qualify as a branch campus.

Award year: The period of time from July 1 of one year through June 30 of the following year.

Branch campus: An additional location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. The Secretary considers a location of an institution to be independent of the main campus if the location -

(1) Is permanent in nature;

(2) Offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential;

(3) Has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and

(4) Has its own budgetary and hiring authority.

Clock hour: (1) A period of time consisting of -

(i) A 50- to 60-minute class, lecture, or recitation in a 60-minute period;

(ii) A 50- to 60-minute faculty-supervised laboratory, shop training, or internship in a 60-minute period;

(iii) Sixty minutes of preparation in a correspondence course; or

(iv) In distance education, 50 to 60 minutes in a 60-minute period of attendance in -

(A) A synchronous or asynchronous class, lecture, or recitation where there is opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students; or

(B) An asynchronous learning activity involving academic engagement in which the student interacts with technology that can monitor and document the amount of time that the student participates in the activity.

(2) A clock hour in a distance education program does not meet the requirements of this definition if it does not meet all accrediting agency and State requirements or if it exceeds an agency's or State's restrictions on the number of clock hours in a program that may be offered through distance education.

(3) An institution must be capable of monitoring a student's attendance in 50 out of 60 minutes for each clock hour under this definition.

Correspondence course: (1) A course provided by an institution under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructors. Interaction between instructors and students in a correspondence course is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student.

(2) If a course is part correspondence and part residential training, the Secretary considers the course to be a correspondence course.

(3) A correspondence course is not distance education.

Credit hour: Except as provided in 34 CFR 668.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an amount of student work defined by an institution, as approved by the institution's accrediting agency or State approval agency, that is consistent with commonly accepted practice in postsecondary education and that -

(1) Reasonably approximates not less than -

(i) One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time; or

(ii) At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1)(i) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours; and

(2) Permits an institution, in determining the amount of work associated with a credit hour, to take into account a variety of delivery methods, measurements of student work, academic calendars, disciplines, and degree levels.

Distance education: (1) Education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (2)(i) through (iv) of this definition to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor or instructors and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.

(2) The technologies that may be used to offer distance education include -

(i) The internet;

(ii) One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;

(iii) Audio conference; or

(iv) Other media used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (2)(i) through (iii) of this definition.

(3) For purposes of this definition, an instructor is an individual responsible for delivering course content and who meets the qualifications for instruction established by an institution's accrediting agency.

(4) For purposes of this definition, substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following -

(i) Providing direct instruction;

(ii) Assessing or providing feedback on a student's coursework;

(iii) Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency;

(iv) Facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course or competency; or

(v) Other instructional activities approved by the institution's or program's accrediting agency.

(5) An institution ensures regular interaction between a student and an instructor or instructors by, prior to the student's completion of a course or competency -

(i) Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the student on a predictable and scheduled basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course or competency; and

(ii) Monitoring the student's academic engagement and success and ensuring that an instructor is responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with the student when needed on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by the student.

Educational program: (1) A legally authorized postsecondary program of organized instruction or study that:

(i) Leads to an academic, professional, or vocational degree, or certificate, or other recognized educational credential, or is a comprehensive transition and postsecondary program, as described in 34 CFR part 668, subpart O; and

(ii) May, in lieu of credit hours or clock hours as a measure of student learning, utilize direct assessment of student learning, or recognize the direct assessment of student learning by others, if such assessment is consistent with the accreditation of the institution or program utilizing the results of the assessment and with the provisions of § 668.10.

(2) The Secretary does not consider that an institution provides an educational program if the institution does not provide instruction itself (including a course of independent study) but merely gives credit for one or more of the following: Instruction provided by other institutions or schools; examinations or direct assessments provided by agencies or organizations; or other accomplishments such as “life experience.”

Eligible institution: An institution that -

(1) Qualifies as -

(i) An institution of higher education, as defined in § 600.4;

(ii) A proprietary institution of higher education, as defined in § 600.5; or

(iii) A postsecondary vocational institution, as defined in § 600.6; and

(2) Meets all the other applicable provisions of this part.

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs: The loan programs (formerly called the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL) programs) authorized by title IV-B of the HEA, including the Federal Stafford Loan, Federal PLUS, Federal Supplemental Loans for Students (Federal SLS), and Federal Consolidation Loan programs, in which lenders use their own funds to make loans to enable students or their parents to pay the costs of the students' attendance at eligible institutions. The Federal Stafford Loan, Federal PLUS, Federal SLS, and Federal Consolidation Loan programs are defined in 34 CFR part 668.

Incarcerated student: A student who is serving a criminal sentence in a Federal, State, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, reformatory, work farm, juvenile justice facility, or other similar correctional institution. A student is not considered incarcerated if that student is in a half-way house or home detention or is sentenced to serve only weekends. For purposes of Pell Grant eligibility under 34 CFR 668.32(c)(2)(ii), a student who is incarcerated in a juvenile justice facility, or in a local or county facility, is not considered to be incarcerated in a Federal or State penal institution, regardless of which governmental entity operates or has jurisdiction over the facility, including the Federal Government or a State, but is considered incarcerated for the purposes of determining costs of attendance under section 472 of the HEA in determining eligibility for and the amount of the Pell Grant.

Juvenile justice facility: A public or private residential facility that is operated primarily for the care and rehabilitation of youth who, under State juvenile justice laws -

(1) Are accused of committing a delinquent act;

(2) Have been adjudicated delinquent; or

(3) Are determined to be in need of supervision.

Nationally recognized accrediting agency: An agency or association that the Secretary recognizes as a reliable authority to determine the quality of education or training offered by an institution or a program offered by an institution. The Secretary recognizes these agencies and associations under the provisions of 34 CFR part 602 and publishes a list of the recognized agencies in the Federal Register.

Nonprofit institution: An institution that -

(1)(i) Is owned and operated by one of more nonprofit corporations or associations, no part of the net earnings of which benefits any private shareholder or individual;

(ii) Is legally authorized to operate as a nonprofit organization by each State in which it is physically located; and

(iii) Is determined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to be an organization to which contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)); or

(2) For a foreign institution -

(i) An institution that is owned and operated only by one or more nonprofit corporations or associations; and

(ii)(A) If a recognized tax authority of the institution's home country is recognized by the Secretary for purposes of making determinations of an institution's nonprofit status for title IV purposes, is determined by that tax authority to be a nonprofit educational institution; or

(B) If no recognized tax authority of the institution's home country is recognized by the Secretary for purposes of making determinations of an institution's nonprofit status for title IV purposes, the foreign institution demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that it is a nonprofit educational institution.

One-academic-year training program: An educational program that is at least one academic year as defined under 34 CFR 668.2.

Preaccreditation: The status of accreditation and public recognition that a nationally recognized accrediting agency grants to an institution or program for a limited period of time that signifies the agency has determined that the institution or program is progressing toward full accreditation and is likely to attain full accreditation before the expiration of that limited period of time (sometimes referred to as “candidacy”).

Recognized equivalent of a high school diploma: The following are the equivalent of a high school diploma -

(1) A General Education Development Certificate (GED);

(2) A State certificate received by a student after the student has passed a State-authorized examination that the State recognizes as the equivalent of a high school diploma;

(3) An academic transcript of a student who has successfully completed at least a two-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor's degree; or

(4) For a person who is seeking enrollment in an educational program that leads to at least an associate degree or its equivalent and who has not completed high school but who excelled academically in high school, documentation that the student excelled academically in high school and has met the formalized, written policies of the institution for admitting such students.

Recognized occupation: An occupation that is -

(1) Identified by a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) or an Occupational Information Network O*Net-SOC code established by the Department of Labor, which is available at or its successor site; or

(2) Determined by the Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of Labor to be a recognized occupation.

Regular student: A person who is enrolled or accepted for enrollment at an institution for the purpose of obtaining a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential offered by that institution.

Religious mission: A published institutional mission that is approved by the governing body of an institution of postsecondary education and that includes, refers to, or is predicated upon religious tenets, beliefs, or teachings.

Secretary: The Secretary of the Department of Education or an official or employee of the Department of Education acting for the Secretary under a delegation of authority.

State: A State of the Union, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. The latter three are also known as the Freely Associated States.

State authorization reciprocity agreement: An agreement between two or more States that authorizes an institution located and legally authorized in a State covered by the agreement to provide postsecondary education through distance education or correspondence courses to students located in other States covered by the agreement and cannot prohibit any member State of the agreement from enforcing its own general-purpose State laws and regulations outside of the State authorization of distance education.

Teach-out: A process during which a program, institution, or institutional location that provides 100 percent of at least one program engages in an orderly closure or when, following the closure of an institution or campus, another institution provides an opportunity for the students of the closed school to complete their program, regardless of their academic progress at the time of closure.

Teach-out agreement: A written agreement between institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students and a reasonable opportunity for students to complete their program of study if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 100 percent of at least one program offered, ceases to operate or plans to cease operations before all enrolled students have completed their program of study.

Teach-out plan: A written plan developed by an institution that provides for the equitable treatment of students if an institution, or an institutional location that provides 100 percent of at least one program, ceases to operate or plans to cease operations before all enrolled students have completed their program of study.

Title IV, HEA program: Any of the student financial assistance programs listed in 34 CFR 668.1(c).

[59 FR 22336, Apr. 29, 1994, as amended at 63 FR 40622, July 29, 1998; 64 FR 58615, Oct. 29, 1999; 71 FR 45692, Aug. 9, 2006; 74 FR 55425, Oct. 27, 2009; 74 FR 55932, Oct. 29, 2009; 75 FR 66946, Oct. 29, 2010, 75 FR 67192, Nov. 1, 2010; 79 FR 65006, Oct. 31, 2014; 81 FR 92262, Dec. 19, 2016; 84 FR 58914, Nov. 1, 2019' 85 FR 54808, Sept. 2, 2020]