USED Proposes Regulation on State Authorization for Distance Education

The U.S. Department of Education released a proposed regulation last month dealing with institutional eligibility for Title IV funds (federal student financial aid). Comments on the proposal are due by August 24 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

In an effort to address concerns over fraudulent practices, noncompliance with requirements of Title IV programs, and other challenges, the Department is offering this latest round of proposed regulations (the initial work on this began in 2012) on distance education programs with an eye to those that operate in more than one state.

The proposed regulations focus on key points connected to institutional eligibility for Title IV federal student financial aid. Here is the summary included in the proposed language:

  • 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 document the State process for resolving complaints from 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.

It is unclear at this time how this proposed regulation will interface with the proposed regulations on teacher preparation programs given the supplemental NPRM released in April.

AACTE continues to monitor the regulations being released by the Department. As this administration begins to prepare for its departure, we expect to see more regulations released – including the teacher preparation regulations this fall and more regulations on the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Interested in staying informed on the release of proposed regulations in the education world? Register on the Federal Register website to receive notifications for the U.S. Department of Education.

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Deborah Koolbeck

Senior Director of Government Relations, AACTE