NAICU Washington Update

Department of Education Seeks Comments on Distance Education State Authorization Regulations

August 18, 2016

Public comment on proposed regulations concerning the state authorization of distance education programs and foreign branch campuses are due to the Education Department by August 24, 2016.  The proposed regulations, announced July 25, seem to be less complicated and prescriptive than the last proposal discussed during a 2014 negotiated rulemaking session on this topic.

However, NAICU’s analysis has revealed several questions related to specific elements of the proposed regulations. The proposed regulations:

  • Require an institution offering distance education or correspondence courses to be authorized by each State in which the institution enrolls students, if such authorization is required by the State, in order to link State authorization of institutions offering distance education to institutional eligibility to participate in title IV programs, including through a State authorization reciprocity agreement.
  • Define the term ‘‘State authorization reciprocity agreement’’ to be 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 in other States covered by the agreement.
  • Require an institution to disclose each State's process for resolving complaints for out-of-state students enrolled in programs offered through distance education or correspondence courses.
  • Require that an additional location or branch campus located in a foreign location be authorized by an appropriate government agency of the country where the additional location or branch campus is located and, if at least half of an educational program can be completed at the location or branch campus, be approved by the institution’s accrediting agency and be reported to the State where the institution’s main campus is located.
  • Require that an institution provide public and individualized disclosures to enrolled and prospective students regarding its programs offered solely through distance education or correspondence courses.
After all public comments have been received and reviewed, the Department will issue final regulations. In order for the final regulations to meet a July 1, 2017 implementation date, the final regulations must be promulgated by the end of October 2016.   

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