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Overturning of state authorization reg. upheld on appeal

Russ Poulin at WCET reported late yesterday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the federal district court ruling that overturned the U.S. Department of Education's state authorization regulation in relation to distance education (http://wcetblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/state-authorization-appeal/). The appeals court found that the district court had ruled correctly--the department had not followed appropriate rule-making procedures in issuing the regulation, and thus the regulation should be blocked.

As Russ's post notes, the department could simply restart the rule-making process on this issue and ultimately reestablish the regulation in that fashion, but it is unclear when the department will decide its next move or what that move will be. The regulation remains strongly opposed by the higher education community, and the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill to block the regulation along with one establishing a federal definition of the credit hour. Meanwhile, the impact of state authorization on Title IV (federal student aid) eligibility for distance education has been removed for the time being, but the awareness of state regulators and higher education institutions about the need for compliance with state laws in this space has certainly been raised. Thus, efforts to establish a model compact for reciprocity among the states on state authorization of postsecondary distance education providers remain important, as do fresh efforts to develop a new framework for distance education regulation that will appropriately balance the oversight requirements of the federal government, state governments, and accrediting bodies.

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