ED sticks by controversial rule; online college officials concerned

ED's regulation could shrink online education, officials say.

The Education Department (ED) said in a March 17 letter that it would not rescind a controversial new rule requiring online schools that operate nationwide to register with every state in which they have students.

Educators and ed-tech officials said the regulation—known as the state-authorization rule—will mandate the burdensome task of state-by-state certification, imposing a financial strain on web-based colleges that could be passed down to students.

The federal rule, unveiled in October, was scheduled to go into effect July 1. ED officials would now be satisfied with a “good-faith effort” from colleges and universities.

ED said in its letter that online colleges must prove they are working toward certification in every state in which they operate by July 1 after many in higher education said it wouldn’t be possible to meet the deadline for state-by-state registration.

ED’s open letter was in response to a March 2 request from 60 higher-education organizations asking federal officials to rescind the rule before its implementation date.

While the “good-faith effort” provision was a welcomed relief for many online colleges, campuses will still have to head the massive undertaking of registering in all 50 states.

“Indeed, it is a delay in the enforcement and lessens the burden on [ED] over the coming … year,” said Russell Poulin, deputy director of WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), an organization that advocates for online instruction. “For the institutions, it is not a delay.”

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