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State Authorization Regulation for Distance Education Among Topics Discussed at House Hearing

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on March 11th on "Education Regulations: Federal Overreach into Academic Affairs" that addressed concerns related to the regulations requiring state authorization for distance education programs. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in her opening statement:

The new state authorization regulation forces states to follow federal requirements when deciding whether to grant a college or university permission to operate within the state. Many institutions fear this is only the beginning of the federal government and states exercising more control over their colleges and universities. For schools providing distance education programs, this regulation could require them to obtain authorization in every state where an enrolled student resides to participate in the federal student aid programs. Even if a school has just one student from a state enrolled in an online program, the institution will still be required to go through the process of obtaining authorization in that state. Schools with more advanced online education opportunities could be forced to deal with this process in all fifty states.

John Ebersole, President of Excelsior College, in his testimony said:

. . . the regulation on State Authorization essentially places the federal government into the role of enforcing state statutes and would force a state to create a new regulatory regime and take on additional financial burden when some states do not have the funds, capacity or structure to comply with this regulation by July 1, 2011. One state has already indicated that it could take a year to determine how it will respond. Furthermore, there is no way to guarantee that an institution has met the department's interpretation of any state's regulations and no way for the institution to ensure it would satisfy these federal interpretations if audited. These uncertainties would stifle innovation and force accredited institutions with legitimate and creative distance education programs to withdraw from certain jurisdictions, leaving the students with the greatest need with little option to further their education.

An archived webcast of the hearing is available.

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