State Authorization: A Few More Reasons Not to Wait

Image courtesy of Flickr user danaspiegel

Here is a gently urgent post by Reed Scull on on why it is imperative that educational institutions not be complacent about seeking state authorization for distance learning, hoping that the whole regulatory mess will quietly go away. This issue is going to be with us in one form or another for some time to come. Which isn’t bad, really. I mean, however onerous these regulations are, they are intended to ensure quality and protect students. Reed writes:

For many of us in distance and continuing education, there was a time when it was possible to be blissfully unaware of the regulatory efforts of federal and state policymakers.  But that time has surely passed.  Institutions were awakened to the existence of state statutes governing distance education with the October 2010 release of the United State Department of Education (USDOE) administrative regulation.  The USDOE mandate would compel educational providers to be authorized to operate in the states where they had students.

The “state authorizations” regulation [also known as USC 600.9] has surely been challenged, in whole and in part, as well as a matter of policy and a matter of law.  What has unquestionably remained is that despite the July 27, 2012 “Dear Colleague” letter wherein the USDOE announced that it will not enforce this regulation, states still expect institutions to comply with their laws.  Further, the consequences for not seeking the relevant state authorizations will continue to be quite serious, ranging from a state “cease and desist” decree to sanctions from regional and special accreditation agencies.  Most importantly, failure to seek appropriate authorization in states where students are served can render the professional recognition of an institution’s courses, certificates, and degrees null and void.  The potential for detrimental consequences to educational providers and individual students is significant.

It has been more than a year since the USDOE opened this Pandora’s Box, and many institutions, including many colleges in the VCCS, are still struggling to find the resources needed to comply. In some ways, it is all still sinking in.

The full article can be found here.

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