Competing Professional Licensure Notification Requirements - Compliance Got Even More Complicated

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Federal regulations, Federal laws to serve Veterans, reciprocity requirements, and state laws require notifications when institutions offer professional programs face-to-face and by distance education.  Participants will leave this session understanding the varying requirements for notifications and will brainstorm practical steps to ensure compliance and serve students with transparency.


Russ Poulin leads the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which advocates for effective practices and policies for digital learning in higher education. WCET’s members represent institutions, state agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations from all fifty states. In paying attention to federal, state, and institution policies, he twice represented the distance education and competency-based education communities in federal negotiated rulemaking processes. The Presidents’ Forum, Excelsior College, the National University Technology Network, and the Online Learning Consortium have all recognized Russ for his contributions. He is also partial to movies, cats, and his wife, Laurie. Contact: or @RussPoulin.

Extended Abstract

Institutions must research the state requirements for professional programs to obtain program approval, if required, and subsequent notifications of the determination of whether the institution’s curriculum meets state educational requirements.  This is an important undertaking to serve students participating in the institution’s licensing programs.  Transparency by the institution is critical for the student with aspirations of a career in a profession. One should consider that, in this increasingly mobile society, students will desire flexibility to choose the best employment opportunity in their profession from a variety of states. 

We have often discussed the challenge to complete the research to review state educational requirements nationwide.  States and professions vary so widely that it is difficult to ascertain the applicable requirements for each state and each profession. Not only are institutions faced with research challenges, but they must also be aware of and distinguish between the varying compliance requirements by various oversight entities for the variety professional programs and students that they serve.

Federal regulations requiring postsecondary institutions that disburse Federal financial aid to provide general and direct notifications regarding their programs that lead to professional licensure or certification regardless of the modality of the program became effective on July 1, 2020.   The reasoning for the notifications is to assist students to make informed decisions about the choice of a postsecondary institution that will provide students with the skills and education to be licensed or certified in their desired profession in a particular state. An institution is tasked with determining whether or not the institution’s program curriculum meets state educational requirements for all of the institution’s face to face and distance education programs that lead to professional licensure or certification. A general notification must be made available as to each state and territory whether or not the curriculum meets state educational requirements or indicate that no determination has been made. If the institution determines that the curriculum does not meet state educational requirements or no determination has been made, a direct notification must be provided to prospective and enrolled students.

In addition to these Department of Education requirements there are also similar requirements related to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  This new regulation makes the publication of conditions and additional requirements to obtain a license or certification a requirement for a course of study to be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for GI Bill benefits. This notification is to be personalized to the individual and provided prior to enrollment.  It also appears to ask for additional information beyond the Title IV based Federal regulations. Is this to mean additional requirements where the student is located prior to enrollment or where the institution is located?  Are we to assume the conditions or additional requirements means things like curriculum requirements above what the institution offers, exam information, fees, etc. that are beyond educational requirements?  Will the State approving agency monitor these professional licensure notifications?

To participate in reciprocity through the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA), institutions have always been required to provide a direct notification to students whether or not the courses or programs subject to SARA policy will lead to a license where the student is located.  In June 2020, the SARA Manual was updated to more closely follow the Federal regulations that became effective July 1, 2020. Institutions are no longer required to send a direct notice to students if the program subject to SARA policy meets state education requirements where the prospective or enrolled student is located. As per the Federal regulations and the SARA Manual, a direct notification is to be supplied to a prospective student if the program does not meet state educational requirement or if no determination has been made. However, the SARA Manual maintained part of its original requirements about the effort to pursue a determination.  For programs subject to SARA policy, the institution must make “all reasonable efforts” to make a determination whether the program meets state educational programs.  If after all reasonable efforts the institution has not made a determination, the institution must supply the contact information for the applicable state professional licensing board in its direct notification to the student.

Finally, institutions must determine if there are separate notifications required by the state regulations to offer professional licensure programs in the state where the student is located while participating in the institution’s program.  These could include state misrepresentation regulations and other consumer protection related regulations.

This session will begin with an interactive format to ascertain the level of knowledge among the session participants of requirements when serving face-to-face and online students in programs leading to a professional licensure.  We will share any guidance we have received from the oversight entities to clarify requirements.  A comprehensive institution game plan is of utmost importance. We will seek input from any experienced participants and discuss a multi-step approach for which institutions may outline the various distinctive requirements to create a compliance strategy for their institution.  Challenges will be identified, and resources will be shared.  We will conclude with opportunity for questions.