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State Authorization Fallout Continues: New Natl. Commission on Distance Ed. Reg.

The repercussions of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) regulations extending state authorization requirements to online/distance learning continue with this week’s launch by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) of a new national commission to study the problems of online/distance education regulation led by former U.S. Secretary of Education and Governor of South Carolina, Richard Riley.

SLDS Privacy/Security Resources - Privacy Technical Assistance Center

As states expand efforts to link K-12, postsecondary, and workforce data via state longitudinal data systems (SLDSs), it is important to understand the privacy and security challenges surrounding SLDSs. How the privacy and security approaches of those systems and non-higher education sectors relate to those of higher education (as developed collaboratively through groups such as the Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC)) is equally relevant. One can get a sense of both by reviewing the resources and information provided by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

FERPA Resources and Compliance--Family Policy Compliance Office

The U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) oversees instituitonal compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In addition to fielding parent or student complaints about violations of the law and its implementing regulations, FPCO offers a number of resources for institutions, students, and parents to help them understand their respective rights and responsibilities under FERPA. Most recently, FPCO has conducted a series of webinars to provide college and university personnel with a better understanding of the law and how it applies to student records management and data-sharing:

Draft St. Authorization Reciprocity Agreement Ready for Input

Russ Poulin, deputy director for research and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), has announced that a draft State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is ready for public review and feedback. As a member of the drafting team working in a process organized by The Presidents' Forum and the Council of State Governments, Poulin has provided a great summary of the agreement's key provisions and requested that interested members of the higher education community, particularly those engaged in the development and delivery of e-learning, review the draft in full and submit ideas and recommendations for the drafting team to consider. Once the draft is finalized, the Council of State Governments will submit it to state legislatures for consideration and adoption.

House Homeland Security Subcmte. Hearing on Cyber Attacks

The Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management of the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing this afternoon entitled "America is Under Cyber Attack: Why Urgent Action is Needed" to highlight the extent of existing cyber threats to the nation and their impact, as well as the dangers of such threats expanding dramatically without a coherent national strategy. (Note that the hyperlink in the hearing title provides access to the archived video of the hearing as well as the written testimony of the witnesses and the opening statement of the subcommittee chair.)

What A Report on Accreditation Means to Higher Ed IT

Outside of e-learning circles, accreditation is not an area that normally draws much attention from the higher education IT community. So, it would not be surprising if last week's meeting of the commission charged with advising the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on accreditation—and especially which accrediting bodies ED will recognize in establishing institutional/programmatic eligibility for federal student aid programs—went largely unnoticed among CIOs and their staffs.

Rule-making coming on financial aid fraud in online distance learning programs

Inside Higher Ed reported today that the U.S. Department of Education is likely to initiate a new round of rule-making to address concerns about financial aid fraud in online distance learning programs. (For background on the issue, please see No details are available yet on when a proposed rule-making process might begin or the full scope of what it will address.

FCC/U.S. Dept. of Ed. Highlight Drive for K-12 E-Textbooks

In his latest "DC News" post, my EDUCAUSE Policy colleague, Greg Haledjian, provided information about a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Education (ED) forum in which K-12, educational publishing, educational technology, and telecommunications leaders were convened to brainstorm strategies to "move all K-12 schools to interactive digital textbooks in the next five years." The event included a review of findings from a research report indicating that such a transition could save schools $250 per student annually.

White House Initiative Highlights "Big Data"

On March 29, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held an event to announce the launch of a "Big Data Research and Development Initiative." Largely building on existing federal agency programs and projects, the initiative as described in a White House press release seeks to coordinate and enhance efforts across the federal government to:

New Business Models: $199/month tuition

Speaking of the potential for technology to facilitate disruptive change in higher education, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a new, for-profit online university, New Charter University, has been launched with a business model that "...sidesteps the [federal student] loan system by setting tuition so cheap that most students shouldn't need to borrow. The price: $796 per semester, or $199 a month, for as many classes as they can finish." Based on the competency-based assessment model of Western Governors University, New Charter believes it can increase affordable access to higher education and still make money by avoiding the costs associated with meeting the regulatory burden that comes with qualifying for federal financial aid programs.