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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 ABMP is concentrating its government relations efforts on assisting states as they reconsider their minimum required program education hours and ensuring they are prepared for any outcome. Of 23 states that began 2024 with a 500-hour minimum, it appears that at least a half-dozen states will increase their minimums to somewhere in the 600-650-hour range this year and others are already focused on doing so in 2025.

It is important to note that among the states increasing minimum hour requirements, so far none have mandated additional education for currently licensed therapists. ABMP makes retaining that status a core priority wherever hours for new massage students are increased.  

So, what does this mean for you? Schools that are in the process of increasing their programs to new clock hour standards set by their state should continue their efforts. This temporary legal reprieve does not guarantee that the rule will be overturned or even substantially delayed. Given the climate of legal uncertainty, if you are in a state that is raising its minimum education hours to somewhere between 600 and 650 hours, it seems prudent for your school to forge ahead on revising its curriculum. This is the best way to protect your school in the event that the challenges to the ruling are overturned and the new rule does go into effect.

In states that have not modified their 500-hour minimum education requirement, some complexities emerge regarding eligibility for federal aid. Students enrolled in programs that begin prior to the July 1, 2024, deadline will be able to continue with their originally slated curriculum with no interruption to any federal aid for which they have been approved. Students enrolled in programs that start on or after July 1, 2024, should assume they will need to meet a combination of the ED proposed revised regulations and their state minimum education requirements. Make sure you are still eligible for any federal aid for which you applied. Licensed massage therapists do not need to return to school to meet new, higher hour requirements; as we have said, no state has made the new education requirements retroactive.  

The next step for all of us is to continue making programmatic changes to schools as scheduled and wait and watch as the courts decide how they will move forward with the lawsuits. ABMP will be monitoring the situation closely and will keep you updated as it progresses.