State authorization has been a major topic of discussion amongst institutions and states for the past several years. Now, the most recent (May 2014) rejection of the Department’s “state authorization for distance education” proposal by the members of the related negotiated rulemaking committee has sparked a great deal of debate. By rule, this leaves any new, proposed regulations to the discretion of the Department.
As an organization, we have heard the thoughts and concerns of our member institutions. In response, with our shared desire to influence the process before the Department publishes their regulations for public comment, The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has worked collaboratively with University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) to generate a letter to the Secretary of Education that expresses our collective concerns.
The letter, which is based on the final draft proposal presented to the negotiated rulemaking committee, conveys concerns regarding additional costs, confusion for students, and the concept of an “active review”. As a group, we do not believe that the proposed regulations would provide a long-term benefit for students. Therefore, within our response letter, we have encouraged the Department to consider the following eight recommendations:
- Reconsider the October 2010 Language regarding requirements
- Recognize Reciprocity
- Require Institutions to Notify Students about Licensure Programs
- Exempt Military , Military Families , and the Veterans Administration Facilities
- Create Real Minimums for Authorization in a State
- Work with the States
- Allow Possible Grace Period if an Institution Loses Authorization
- Ensure Students are Covered by Consumer Protection Laws
United in our desire to promote policies and practices that protect consumers and improve the educational experience of the distance learner, we encourage our member institutions to read the letter, to stay abreast of any new, proposed regulations by the Department, and to weigh in by sharing your thoughts and opinions. Though not yet confirmed, we anticipate that the Department will release information regarding proposed regulations in July 2014. Once the Department has released the proposed regulation, a request for public comment (typically, a 60 day period) must take place prior to the any final regulations being instituted. This will be a great time to offer your thoughts, opinions and/or concerns.
In the meantime, we encourage you to watch for updated information on the following sites:
- The Office of the Federal Register website for notices and proposed rules at https://www.federalregister.gov/
- OLC: onlinelearningconsortium.org/connect/blog
- WCET Frontiers Blog: http://wcetblog.wordpress.com/ *note: one of the letter’s authors, Russell Poulin, served as a member of the negotiated rulemaking committee.
- UPCEA website: http://www.upcea.edu/