Federal Funding for Massage Schools at Risk Across the U.S.
On October 31, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) released its final rule on Financial Responsibility, Administrative Capability, Certification Procedures, Ability To Benefit (ATB). This will have a substantial impact on the educational landscape within our massage therapy profession, most significantly the elimination of the 150% rule.
What is the 150% Rule?
The current rule allows for massage schools and programs to provide clock hours up to 150% above the state minimum requirements for licensure, without having any negative impact on the student’s eligibility to receive Title IV Federal Financial Aid. For example, in a state that only requires 500 clock hours of education to obtain a massage therapy license, schools have been allowed to offer up to 750 clock hours and still receive federal funding.
The New Rule Eliminates the 150% Rule
The new rule would eliminate the 150% rule, requiring all clock-hour programs to teach only the state-mandated minimum hours. For states where the minimum is under 600 hours, massage therapy schools and programs would be classified as “short-term programs”, making them only eligible for direct loans instead of Title IV Federal Financial Aid.
Why You Need to Take Action
The new rule could negatively impact massage schools, students and the greater profession in the following ways:
- Any Title IV massage school program that exceeds their state’s minimum number of hours would no longer receive federal financial funding due to being out of compliance with the eligibility requirements.
- This means that schools would have to redesign and recertify their educational programs (a time-consuming process) or students would have to pay for the entire program on their own and/or through direct loans.
- The implementation period for the new rule, of July 2024, does not allow sufficient time for massage therapy programs to comply.
- These changes could greatly reduce the supply of massage therapy students entering the workforce.
- At a time when Americans, medical providers, government agencies, and national organizations are recognizing massage therapy as an important component of integrative healthcare, the new rule reverses our efforts to advance quality education and practice for massage therapists.
Support Representative Smucker’s Amendment
AMTA’s staff in Washington, D.C. has been working with Congress to gauge and garner support for lobbying the U.S. Department of Education to amend or postpone the new rule. We have also been communicating directly with Senior Staff at Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s (PA-11) office, who is championing an amendment to the new rule. The amendment would allow massage schools and programs that provide clock hours above the state minimum requirements for licensure, to continue to receive federal funding.
Additional Ways to Support Massage Schools
While we have long advocated to increase massage educational standards and hours across the country, we have to be realistic that the possibility of half the licensed states enacting legislation and passing it, before the damage of this new rule has been done, is unlikely. That said, starting these conversations now is still important to fuel efforts to raise education standards in the future.
We STRONGLY encourage schools, educators, students and the entire massage therapy profession to contact your Governor’s offices to express your concerns on this rule and the impact it would have on your school, your staff, your students in your state, and most importantly the massage therapy workforce. Please take immediate action and ask your Governors to put pressure on the Presidential Administration, Department of Education and Congress!