Half of colleges said they would not seek authorization in all 50 states.
Online college students in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Minnesota soon could have more limited school options as colleges and universities plan to withdraw their online programs from those states in response to a much-debated set of regulations.
Colleges with large online course selections that draw students from every state have railed against the U.S. Education Department’s “state authorization” rules, which require schools to gain approval from every state in which they have even one online student.
And even after a federal judge voided part of the state authorization rule in July, online education experts say ED probably will reintroduce the regulations in 2012.
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College officials have made it clear that they won’t serve students in states with the most onerous requirements to abide by. The costs of seeking approval in those states could prove to be too high, so many schools will provide online classes only for students who live in states that aren’t heavy-handed with compliance measures, according to a survey conducted by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WCET).
Six in 10 colleges and universities with online programs identified states they likely would not serve if state authorization rules are fully implemented. Twenty-nine schools said they would withdraw online classes from Massachusetts, 16 said they would leave Minnesota, and 15 wouldn’t serve college students in Arkansas.
“It’ll have a chilling effect on distance education, and students will start complaining and rising up about their freedom of taking classes being curtailed in the name of consumer protections,” said Russell Poulin, deputy director of WCET.