State Approval: Running in Two Directions

As of today, there are 119 days remaining until July 1, when the ‘state authorization’ regulation takes effect.  With less than four months to go, we are forced to split our attention in two directions.

The first direction is “advocacy.”  We are working with many higher education organizations to advocate either a rescission of the regulation or a two-year delay in its implementation.

The second direction is “compliance.”  If we are not successful in our efforts to alter the course of this regulation, institutions will need to be approved or to have applied to all the states that require them to do so by July 1.  We must keep busy on this front.

It’s difficult to give clear direction to institutions asking about what they should be doing.  Some are tempted to wait because they are sure that a change will come.  I’m hopeful.  Although, everyone’s tolerance for risk is different.  Regardless of where you are, here are important updates on both directions.

Russ Poulin page reading "A Starter List - Final Version (ALMOST)"

We’re ALMOST done with the Starter List. Revised final version coming on Friday.

Compliance

  • State Authorization Network. Expecting each institution to research, interpret, and act upon the approval and licensure regulations of each state is a highly inefficient use of staff time and misinterpretations could put an institution at risk. Some systems and consortia are centralized ‘Coordinators’ to research the federal and state regulations and assist the institutions. WCET’s State Authorization Network will assist the ‘Coordinators’ by providing training on the regulations, enabling access to experts on the issue, and networking among participants so that they can share what they uncover.  Learn about the State Authorization Network and how your system or consortium can join.
  • State Approval ‘Starter’ List – Watch for the Next Final Version. On February 28th, the “final” version of the document “State Approval Regulations for Distance Education: A Starter List” was released.  Forty states responded to our request to review and correct the draft version of this document.  Within 24 hours of releasing it, seven states contacted us with further revisions and we are waiting on a few more.  On Friday, we will release the NEXT final version of the list.  We don’t plan on doing this forever, which leads us to the next item.  Thank you again to the Southern Regional Education Board, American Distance Education Consortium, and the University of Wyoming for partnering with WCET in creating the list.
  • SHEEO ‘Intends’ to Publish the List. The State Higher Education Executive Officers are researching what it will take to create an expanded state-by-state list of regulations that will be continually updated.  While SHEEO ‘intends’ to assume this role, the decision has not been finalized.  We will share all information that we have collected with SHEEO to help them get started in their work.
  • Dear Colleague. No new word on when the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) ‘Dear Colleague’ letter will be released.

Advocacy

  • ACE Request ‘State Approval’ Regulation Be Rescinded. The American Council on Education wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan citing problems with the ‘state authorization’ regulations.  The letter called for the USDOE to rescind the regulation.  WCET was one of 21 higher education associations and 38 accrediting agencies to co-sign the letter.  The letter states: “We believe the best course of action would be to rescind the new state authorization regulation in its entirety. This is a conclusion we have not reached lightly and only after determining that our concerns cannot be addressed through modification. As finalized, the regulation…threatens the ability of both public and private institutions to serve students through effective distance education programs.”
  • APSCU Lawsuit. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) filed a lawsuit against the USDOE (pdf file is slow to load) regarding ‘state authorization’ and two other regulations released last October.  Someone asked me what impact the lawsuit might have on implantation of the regulation.  I did not know, so I called them.  Since filing the suit, APSCU asked for a summary judgment on February 25.  A response from USDOE is due on March 18, APSCU can again respond by April 1, and the final response from USDOE is due on April 15.  Some people were hoping for a quick decision on this lawsuit. Given this timeline, no decision will come before April 15.  APSCU invited me to determine if WCET and other organizations would be willing to file briefs in support of their motion.  If anyone is interested in this, let me know.
  • Congressional Letters. I’m still working with several organizations to create sample wording that institutions can use in contacting their Congressional delegations.  I’m hoping that we can get these letters to you soon.

Good luck!

Russ Poulin
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu
State Approval page:   http://wcet.wiche.edu/advance/state-approval
Twitter:  @wcet_info      State Approval Hashtag: #stateapp

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