ED sticks by controversial rule; online college officials concerned

Poulin said colleges are still left with the “monumental burden” of identifying where their web-based students are located, deciphering the often unclear state regulations, and deciding if they need to apply to each state.

Complicating the federal requirement is ED’s mandate to register every online program in every state. In other words, the same school might have to seek registration for its nursing, computer science, and business programs in the same state.

John Ebersole, president of New York-based Excelsior College, said during a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing March 10 that Excelsior staffers recently spent about 400 hours completing applications for two programs in one state.

“It really is mountains of paperwork that they’re going to have to fill out,” Poulin said.

Robert Larson, director of the North Dakota University System’s (NDUS) online education program, said that if compliance with the state-authorization rule proves too pricey, NDUS might cease its online courses out of state.

That would mean NDUS would operate without tuition from about 5,000 out-of-state web-based students.

“To not have those students enrolled in our schools, would we survive? Probably,” he said. “Would it be as good? No.”