State Authorization of Distance Education
In December 2016, the Department of Education released final regulations regarding the state authorization of distance education programs and foreign branch campuses. The final regulations will go into effect on July 1, 2018 absent congressional or administrative action.
The final regulations are more than six years in the making and build upon a set of proposed regulations released in July 2015. NAICU had put together a briefing document that outlines the key points of the proposed rule. The final regulations are very similar to the proposed regulations with only a few minor changes.
In short, the final regulations:
- Require institutions 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. Provides a college the ability to receive State authorization via participation in a state authorization reciprocity agreement.
- Define the term “state authorization reciprocity agreement.” Though the definition is relatively straightforward, it does contain the confusing clause that any state authorization reciprocity agreement “does not prohibit any State in the agreement from enforcing its own statutes and regulations, whether general or specifically directed at all or a subgroup of educational institutions.” What this definition will mean for the most comprehensive state authorization reciprocity agreement, NC-SARA, remains to be seen.
- Require institutions to document individual State processes for resolving student complaints for students enrolled in programs offered via distance education.
- Require foreign branch campuses to be authorized by an appropriate government agency of the country where the campus is located and, if offering at least half of an educational program at the foreign location, be approved by the institution’s accreditor and reported to the home state.
- Require institutions to provide both public and individualized disclosures to enrolled and prospective students regarding its programs offered solely through distance education or correspondence courses.