A trio of distance education advocates is pressing the U.S. Department of Education to scale back its proposal that would require online programs to be overseen by regulators in each and every state in which they enroll students.
In a letter sent Friday to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the groups warn that the Department of Education’s most recent draft of a “state authorization” rule would, if enacted, lead to “large-scale disruption, confusion and higher costs for students in the short-term” with no long-term benefit. The missive was signed by the heads of The Sloan Consortium, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.
The department, citing a concern that some states aren’t doing enough to oversee higher education programs offered to their residents, is again seeking to require that online programs obtain approval from every state in which they enroll students after a court in 2012 blocked such an effort on procedural grounds.
But this time around, department officials have indicated they want to take the rule a step further. Their most recent draft proposal would allow federal funds to flow only to distance education providers that are actively reviewed by state regulators. Such a requirement would essentially require that many states change their current practice of exempting some types of distance education programs from their review process.
A negotiated-rulemaking panel failed to reach consensus on the rule earlier this year. The Education Department is now free to move ahead with re-writing its own version of the rule.
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