ED sticks by controversial rule; online college officials concerned

A well-known expert on education regulation wrote a March 15 blog post that reaction to the state-authorization rule was overblown.

Alan Contreras, head of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, pointed out that the recent ED decision didn’t create any new regulations.

“The rule didn’t create [state authorization], but merely called attention to it — which is a good thing,” he wrote in a blog from New America Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for major shifts in U.S. educational policy.

Contreras said he recently fielded a call from an institution “appalled that it might have to contact multiple states.” Contreras’s advice for the online program: “Get over it — you operate in multiple states, don’t you? Welcome to the internet age!”

“These schools have now awakened to find forty-nine wide-awake horses in their beds and no farriers on staff,” he wrote.

Schools won’t be federally mandated to get permission from states that do not have regulations for out-of-state institutions, according to ED’s letter.

The state-authorization regulation would not apply to colleges that run programs that only require online classes. But if a school requires occasional live, proctored tests on physical campuses, the school would have to comply with the rule.

Officials who have tracked ED’s state-authorization rule said the regulation would have most impact on nonprofit, public institutions that run web-based courses attended by students across the country.