Winning Isn’t Everything, but Wanting to Win is!– Vince Lombardi
We just heard the horn for the two-minute (well…one-month) warning for the state authorization and professional licensure disclosure implementation game. We are looking July 1, 2020 straight in the face and need to develop a winning strategy. If only we had a playbook and diagram! Oh wait, we do! We have the Professional Licensure Disclosures Implementation Handbook and Flowchart provided by the WCET State Authorization Network (SAN) and author Shari Miller.
New Federal Regulations effective July 1, 2020 require that institutions that participate in Title IV financial aid programs must provide general and direct disclosures to prospective and enrolled students that participate in programs that lead to professional licensure.
Many may be saying, are you kidding?
No, I’m not kidding.
EARLY SEASON RECAP
Regular readers of WCET Frontiers are well aware of the long 10 year drama of the State Authorization regulations. Then, like when Brett Favre retired but then didn’t retire, we saw Federal regulations that were about to become effective in 2018 get delayed at the last second. Then the delayed regulations became effective due to a court ruling. Meanwhile, consensus language that included professional licensure disclosures for all modalities came from Negotiated rulemaking. The consensus language became the new regulations that were released November 1, 2019 just in the nick of time to meet the buzzer so that regulations could become effective July 1, 2020. To keep you on the edge of your seat, we are dealing with a pandemic! In many cases we see remote learning across state lines and the issue of licensing, certification, and disbursed students. What a game!
In all seriousness, new Federal regulations for Professional licensure disclosures for all modalities become effective in about a month. Despite our being asked many times, there has been no indication that the Department of Education will issue a delay. Recent flexibilities offered by the Department due to COVID-19 have not included information about disclosures.
There are currently effective Federal regulations for professional licensure disclosures for distance education programs that will be replaced with the new regulations. Institutions that participate in reciprocity through State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) are required to provide professional licensure disclosures for their distance education courses and programs that are subject to SARA oversight. Your institution is likely already aware that professional licensure notifications are a responsibility. However, many may have questions about how to implement a strategy to provide the required notifications.
Institutions need to develop a plan to research, assess, and provide professional licensure disclosures. Institutions can prepare by reviewing the implementation handbook for institutional compliance with the 2019 Federal regulations provided on the WCET/SAN Website, available for you to download. The handbook was expertly written by Shari Miller who brought her vast experience to this practical guide.
You will find bookmarked sections that direct you to the background information and motivation for providing disclosures, the specific language of the regulations, and an implementation guide that walks you step by step through a process that you may review and adjust to your institution’s needs. An implementation flowchart provides a one page visual of the steps described in the implementation guide portion of the handbook.
Because institutions need to know “why” they are providing these notifications, the handbook provides a summary of Federal regulatory obligations, state/reciprocity requirements, the student as a consumer, and the institution’s moral obligation. The handbook proceeds to the “what” to describe the relevant issues to address within the Federal regulations. These issues include the programs that require disclosures, the type of student, the type of disclosure, and that the disclosures apply to all modalities. The final section is the “how” to prepare a multi-step institutional approach for compliance that includes the following steps which you will see in the handbook contain sub-steps:
Step 1: Determine who is responsible for doing this work.
Step 2: Gather institutional data by creating a list of ALL educational programs that potentially lead to licensure (both face-to-face and distance education).
Step 3: Strategically prioritize state research.
Step 4: Compare the institutional data with state requirements.
Step 5: Disclosures. Levels of disclosures required for all programs that potentially lead to licensure regardless of modality.
KNOW THE RULES OF THE GAME
It is very important to review the regulations and requirements for yourself. The Federal regulations are found in Institutional Information under:
General Disclosures: 34 CFR 668.43(a)(5)(v)
(the language is broken down into bullets below for the reader’s benefit)
If an educational program is:
- Designed to meet educational requirements for a specific professional license or certification that is required for employment in an occupation, OR
- is advertised as meeting such requirements…
Information regarding whether completion of that program would be sufficient to meet licensure requirements in a State for that occupation including:
- A list of all States for which the institution has determined that its curriculum meets the State educational requirements for licensure or certification;
- A list of all States for which the institution has determined that its curriculum does not meet the State educational requirements for licensure or certification; and
- A list of all States for which the institution has not made a determination that its curriculum meets the State educational requirements for licensure or certification;
Direct Disclosures: 34 CFR 668.43(c)
(the language is summarized below for clarity)
Disclosure made directly to the student in writing which may include through email or other electronic communication.
- For Prospective students: The institution will provide a Direct Disclosure if the determination is that the curriculum DOES NOT meet state educational requirements or has NOT MADE a DETERMINATION where the prospective student is located prior to enrollment in the program. (Note: the Preamble of the regulations indicates disclosure prior to a financial commitment)
- For Enrolled student: The institution will provide a Direct Disclosure if there is a determination that the program curriculum does not meet the state educational requirements in a state where the student is located. The disclosure must go to the student within 14 calendar days of the institution making that determination.
Determination of location is discussed in this regulation including the enrolled student’s change of location through formal receipt of information from the student, in accordance with the institution’s procedures.
State Licensing Board Requirements
One may be asking, where do I find the state licensing board requirements? This is a challenge.
With so many professions with licensing boards in each state and territory, a compendium of all licensing board requirements for all professions is a tall order. However, there are several resources available to get you the contact information to reach the state boards.
- COVID-19 Licensure Bd Guidance – National Associations for State Licensure Boards (several national associations gathered state licensing board information of requirements during COVID-19).
- Professional Licensure Directory prepared by NC-SARA(contact information in each state for state boards of Counseling, Nursing, Psychology, Social Work, Teacher Education.
- Common Professional Board National Links: Updated April 2020 (requires SAN Member login).
- Licensed Professions per State with Board links Updated April 2020 (requires SAN Member login).
INSTANT REPLAY – A FEW QUESTIONS ASKED OFTEN
No, simply telling students to look up the requirements themselves does not meet the compliance requirements.
The institution must make a conscious decision about how it will address the notifications within the direction of the regulation. An institution should keep in mind that a student who is new to the profession will have no way of ascertaining that an institution’s curriculum meets a state’s standards as compared to subject matter experts at the institutions. Even if the student could, the regulation says that the institution must address whether they have made a determination of the curriculum meeting state educational requirements, and if a determination was made, sharing the outcome. The preamble of the Federal Regulations indicates that the Department’s official guidance is that they expect the institution to eventually develop a systematic approach to research and assess the state licensing requirements. One should consider that students are savvy and may ultimately consider against an institution that cannot provide a determination about their curriculum meeting state requirements.
No, a national licensing exam does not exempt you from doing the research in each state and providing state-by-state guidance. While the profession may have agreed upon the licensing exam, there are problems with this strategy:
- It is up to each state to decide whether it accepts the exam or not. For some professions, we have heard that some states use their own process even when a “national” exam exists.
- The exam is not really the “educational requirements” of a state. Some states have additional educational expectations beyond passing the exam.
Yes, you can date-stamp a determination that you made to protect yourself. There are often changes made by state boards and you can attest as to when you made your determination. But…don’t let that date stamp get too stale.
MANY WINNING STRATEGIES
Institutions, like winning sports teams, may have different strategies to be successful with their professional licensure disclosures game plan. We offer this Handbook as for possible practices for an institution to follow and modify to the institution’s needs, to achieve and maintain compliance with professional licensure disclosures. As with other strategy building ideas we regularly share, we encourage institutions to work collaboratively with key stakeholders at the institution including General Counsel to ensure that the institution’s compliance plan meets risk analysis standards.
If you would like more information about professional licensure disclosure strategies, please review the WCET/SAN Website. Of particular interest, please review the great work of the SAN Special Interest Team for Professional Licensure resources including: articles, charts, and white paper on professional licensure compacts.
So, with two minutes left in the game, good luck! Cue the fight song!