Are universities prepared for state authorization?

Colleges, universities no longer accepting students from outside states in response to state authorization

state-authorizationAs colleges and universities prepare to comply with upcoming state authorization rules, 75 percent of institutions recently surveyed by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies said they have decided to no longer accept students from certain outside states into their online programs.

The findings come from an annual survey conducted by WCET asking institutions about their preparedness regarding the re-authorization of state authorization rules. Nearly 500 respondents participated in this year’s survey.

The regulatory hoops institutions must jump through when offering distance education to students outside their states can already be numerous, but in 2010 the Department of Education released new regulations that linked state authorization to federal financial aid.

In June 2012, after a series of lawsuits challenging the regulation, the authorization was vacated by the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but many educators and observers expected it to be reinstated.

The assembling of a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee in November nudged that reinstatement closer to a reality, and they met for a final time in late May. A draft of the regulations will soon be released for public comment before being finalized as early as this fall.

The survey found that only 25 percent of respondents had applied for authorization in every state where they planned on enrolling students. About half had applied to at least one state. One-third said they plan on being authorized in every state.

“For those that have not applied to a state,” Russ Poulin, interim co-executive director of WCET, wrote in a blog post, “some of the top reasons include: the cost is too high, waiting for SARA, collecting information for applying, and (my personal favorite) waiting for more clarification.”

On average, compliance is so far costing public, four-year universities more than $40,000. Total costs could reach as much as $400,000, WCET estimated.

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