Rules could prompt colleges to pull online programs from some states

At a meeting of online college presidents, provosts, and other decision makers in Washington, D.C., last year, ED officials ensured worried stakeholders that the department would not employ a rigid approach to state authorization compliance.

ED decertifies an average of two colleges and universities annually, said David Bergeron, the department’s acting deputy secretary for policy, planning, and innovation.

“We work with schools to bring them into compliance,” he said. “We don’t want to begin from a position of terminating an institution’s eligibility [for federal funds]. That’s just how we do things.”

ED said in a March 17 letter that it would not rescind the state authorization rule after a request from 60 higher-education organizations asking federal officials to scrap the regulation before it took effect July 1.

The ED letter said the department would be satisfied with a “good-faith effort” from colleges and universities.

Enforcement of higher-education compliance varies from state to state, Poulin said, with some states sporting a full staff of regulators that will institute fines for schools that refuse to comply.

A coalition of distance learning organizations, including WCET and the Presidents Forum, is working with the Council of State Governments to create an interstate reciprocity agreement that would help colleges avoid having to comply with state-by-state regulations.

In other words, if a state signs on to the still-forming pact, schools will be able to enroll students from that state without going through the often lengthy review process.

A college would only have to gain compliance in its home state, Poulin said.

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