Online college officials cheer court ruling on controversial federal regulation

“Whether or when the several efforts to arrive at common state standards, reciprocity, or some other nonfederal mechanism will bear fruit is unclear, but at least for the time being there is no risk of federal enforcement of state requirements,” Goldstein wrote.

Shay said that when Franklin University launched its first online courses in 2000, many states did not have any rules for how online classes must operate. Complying with the rules as policymakers developed them, she said, has been a focus for Franklin officials.

“There was a panicked frenzy” when ED first proposed state authorization in 2010, Shay said. “So we’re doing our part to share our experience and show other institutions how to navigate that process.”

In May, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in May helped form a 20-person national commission to study the immediate and long-term impact of federal regulations on online learning programs.

The commission, scheduled to meet June 12, will include university presidents, executives from the for-profit college industry, a former governor, and state lawmakers. An ED official will serve as an advisor to the commission.

The group will meet a few times throughout 2012, according to APLU’s website.

Marshall Hill, executive director of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and a commission member, said online-education advocates should seek a compromise that weeds out fraudulent college programs without stunting the massive growth of online courses.

“We clearly need to do better than we now do: better in enabling and supporting much-needed innovation; better in assuring quality across the board; and better in dealing with the bad apple issues that have plagued the expansion of online learning,” Hill said. “We simply cannot accomplish what we need to accomplish without significantly challenging the status quo.”

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