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The Department of Education published an extensive list of new regulations slated to take effect July 1, 2011. While these regulations are aimed at overseeing federal aid for distance learning, they have campus wide implications including a federal definition of credit hours and new costs in certification. A House hearing on March 11, 2011 raised a number of concerns about the effect on campuses. David Moltz published an excellent article reviewing the hearing and providing more information about the context and details of this issue.

Our Position

Of current interest to the EDUCAUSE community is the requirement, termed "State Authorization", that campuses offering distance learning obtain certification from each student's home state that the distance-ed program meets that state's requirements. EDUCAUSE believes these regulations are unnecessary and compliance is overly burdensome to higher ed. Untouched, the regulations and their compliance deadline will have adverse effects on distance and hybrid learning programs at a time when demand for them is greater than ever.

What We're Doing About It

EDUCAUSE has joined with over 70 higher education and accrediation associations to urge the government to make changes to these new rules. We have sent joint letters to the Dept. of Education and to leaders on the relevent Congressional committees to reconsider this policy, or at least provide more time and resources for institutions to become compliant. Additionally, we have created this resource page and have added State Authorization as one of our major issues; look for more information and activity coming from EDUCAUSE on this issue in the coming months.

Recent Outcome

On July 27th, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that confirmed ED will no longer seek to enforce the current federal student aid regulation extending state authorization requirements to distance education, by way of a "Dear Colleague Letter" (DCL) sent to institutions.

Additional Resources

  • Tracking SARA: An Update on the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, EDUCAUSE Live! Novenmber 14, 2012.
  • USDOE Will Not Enforce Its Distance Ed State Authorization Regs, but Questions Remain, WCET blog post.
  • Letter from Department of Education.
  • Analysis by Russ Poulin (WCET) of Dep. of Education letter.
  • Lawsuit filed by Career College Association seeking to delay implementation of regulations.
  • Resource page maintained by WCET. This is an excellent, comprehensive site, including a detailed analysis of the regulation and a great deal of additional original material.
  • The actual State Authorization regulation from the Department of Education.
  • The Web page for WCET's "State Approval 'Starter' List", a document summarizing distance-education requirements in all states. Note: SHEEO (State Higher Education Executive Officers) may soon take over responsibility for updating this resource.
  • Aug. 2, 2010 letter from ACE and other higher-ed associations (including EDUCAUSE) to the Department of Education expressing concern about State Authorization and a number of other new regulations.
  • March 2, 2011 letter from ACE and others (including EDUCAUSE) focused specifically on the State Authorization issue.
  • March 11, 2011 letter from ACE and others (including EDUCAUSE) to Rep. Virginia Foxx asking for Congressional pressure to extend the compliance deadline by one year.
  • June 10, 2011 letter from ACE, EDUCAUSE and many others to Rep. Virginia Foxx thanking her for introducing H.R. 2117 to congress, legislation that would repeal the regulation in Section 600.2 creating a federal definition of a credit hour.


Updated November 2012

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