Are new regulations lurking around the corner?

Committee to meet for final time to discuss state authorization

regulationsresizedThe U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee is nearing the end of its reworking of the federal online education regulations known as state authorization.

The language for the new guidelines is not expected to be finalized until later this week, but Russ Poulin, interim co-executive director of WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technology, detailed some of the changes in recent blog posts.

A major part of the regulations, Poulin said, concern reciprocity agreements, voluntary arrangements between various states and regions that ease some of the regulatory burdens for students taking online courses in different states.…Read More

Lawmakers weigh big change to online college policy

Alabama lawmakers are considering legislation to allow the state’s colleges and universities to participate in reciprocal online course offerings with schools in other states.

The Tuscaloosa News reports House Bill 321 is sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole, a Tuscaloosa Republican. Poole says he met with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and educators when he crafted the bill.

lawmakers-online-collegeThe legislation would tweak part of Alabama law to allow accredited out-of-state schools participating in a regional agreement approved by the governor to operate in Alabama.

Alabama Commission on Higher Education Director Gregory Fitch says the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would likely be the accrediting authority, and the agreement would be overseen by the Southern Regional Education Board.…Read More

Will ed-tech have a role in the White House’s college access push?

President Obama invited nearly 150 university, nonprofit, and business leaders to the White House Jan. 16 for a summit devoted to finding ways of improving college access to low-income students.

white-house-educationThose in attendance were required to make specific commitments to increase college opportunity — and education technology such as data analytics, online learning, and mobile devices are key factors in many of those pledges.

“Today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-20s only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree,” Obama said. “So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.”

The summit largely stayed away from any discussion of Obama’s controversial college rating system, and instead focused on a series of panel and group discussions about individual efforts to address enrollment and retention.…Read More

eLearning caucus has ‘long way to go’ in educating Congress

Congressional representatives lacked such basic knowledge of online education in 2011 that many thought distance learning was still primarily done through correspondence classes, according to a survey conducted that year.

congress-elearning-educationShortly after that poll’s results were released by a group of online colleges called the Presidents’ Forum, two members of congress formed an eLearning caucus to educate policy makers. Eighteen months since its official launch, the members of the caucus may still have their work cut out for them.

“We’ve come a ways since then,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who created the caucus with Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. “More members have direct experience. Awareness is increasing. But we certainly still have a long way to go.”

Since its creation, the caucus has yet to push for any policy decisions, though members of the group pursue their own policy goals concerning education.…Read More

California State University’s ‘radical’ plan for online courses

California’s online program could be a model for other states.

This fall, for the first time, California State University students will be able to take courses offered online on any of the system’s campuses — regardless of where they attend.

The plan announced today, includes about 30 courses approved for systemwide consumption, from Elementary Astronomy to the History of Rock and Roll.

In other words, a student from San Francisco State can sign up for a microeconomics course taught at CSU Northridge, while students from that Southern California campus can learn all about American politics from a professor who teaches in San Francisco.…Read More

MIT releases report on Aaron Swartz case, finds ‘no wrongdoing’ on its part

Aaron Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison when he committed suicide in January.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has concluded that there was “no wrongdoing on MIT’s part” in the prosecution and suicide of internet activist and computer programmer Aaron Swartz.

The findings were released today in a 180-page report that followed a review conducted by Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. Abelson was asked to lead the internal probe by MIT President L. Rafael Reif in January after Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment.

Swartz, who was 26, was facing up to 35 years in prison after he was accused of breaking into an MIT closet in 2011 and making unauthorized downloads of millions of scholarly articles from the journal archive JSTOR. According to a federal indictment, Swartz was allegedly going to make the articles free and downloadable online.…Read More

For-profit colleges giving big to helpful House members

House Education Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, who saw a dramatic upsurge in campaign contributions from for-profit colleges in recent months, is pushing legislation that would help the industry preserve its access to federal student loans, USA Today reports. The measure, “Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act,” was introduced July 10 by the Minnesota Republican and two other members of the education panel and would bar the Obama administration from moving forward with rules to cut off federal student aid to schools whose graduates have high debt ratios and low repayment rates. Kline’s committee approved the bill Wednesday.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam launches new online university for state

Gov. Bill Haslam today launched a new online, “competency-based” university he said will help expand access to college for Tennesseans, the Times Free Press reports. The governor was joined by Western Governors University President Robert W. Mendenhall as he signed a memorandum of understanding that officially establishes the university in partnership with WGU, a nonprofit online university created in 1997 by a group of western governors. “We think this is a significant day in the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said during the news conference. There are some 800,000 Tennesseans who have completed some college but have no degree, Haslam said, and WGU Tennessee will be there to offer lower-cost, high quality education.

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Bill would allow parents to save $10,000 a year for college

Two Michigan congressmen are proposing legislation that would allow families to save even more for their children’s college costs, the Detroit Free Press reports. The bill proposed by U.S. Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, would increase from $2,000 to $10,000 a year the amount families can invest in Coverdell Savings Accounts for higher education. The legislation also allows contributions to continue until the beneficiary is 22 years of age. At present, contributions continue only until the beneficiary is 18. Coverdell accounts are structured so that investment results are tax-free, though taxes are paid on the contributions. The beneficiary does not owe tax on the distributions as long as they are less than his or her qualified expenses for higher education.

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Legislation says universities can’t monitor social media accounts

Schools cannot use social media monitoring software, according to new legislation.

Protecting the social media privacy of college students and university employees once again proved to be a bipartisan issue May 16, as the North Carolina House passed a bill that would prohibit colleges and universities from demanding passwords to Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with all other social networks.

North Carolina, with the passage of House Bill 846, joins a lengthy list of state legislatures that have effectively ended the brief higher-education practice of requesting social media log-in information for student and employee background checks.

The North Carolina legislation — which passed with a vote of 76-36 — makes exceptions for criminal investigations and employer-held devices. One state lawmaker, Rep. Paul Stam, spoke out after the vote, saying the new privacy law would prohibit schools from scouring social media accounts when they have good reason to do so.…Read More