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Institutions Likely to Opt Out of Online Learning in Some States

According to Inside Higher Education, survey results show that the U.S. Department of Education’s recently overturned regulations on state authorization for distance learning would lead 59% of institutions responding to the survey to avoid enrolling students in at least some states rather than trying to achieve state authorization for their online/distance learning offerings in all states. Institutions most often cited Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Arkansas as states where they were unlikely to pursue state authorization due to expensive and/or complicated authorization processes.

As the article notes, even if the department’s Title IV financial aid regulations on state authorization for distance learning are not reinstated, state laws mandating state authorization for the delivery of postsecondary learning, including online/distance learning, in the state remain in force, and the furor over the federal regulations in this area make pleading ignorance of states’ authorization laws an increasingly untenable defense. However, while institutions should work to assess their exposure to this concern based on the laws of states in which they have online students (or faculty, depending on how a state’s authorization law defines “operating in the state”), the relative awareness and response capability of state regulators to this issue is likely to vary significantly and, particularly in the latter case, trend toward limited.

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