Online-Learning Groups Warn Against Federal Action on ‘State Authorization’

As the U.S. Education Department considers new rules for the oversight of distance-learning programs, online-education advocates say in a letter to be released on Monday that the toughening of regulations could hurt students instead of helping them.

In the letter, addressed to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, leaders of three online-education groups call on the department to move away from a more-stringent method of awarding federal student aid based on state authorization. Called “active review,” the proposed regulations would require some state-authorization practices to become more rigorous in order for distance-learning programs to receive aid. Currently, some states grant authorization passively, based on prior accreditation or long-term operation within a state.

While the department has not yet defined what an “active review” must entail, it has suggested that such procedures should include an analysis of an institution’s financial position and its tuition-refund policy.

“The impact of the proposed regulations would be large-scale disruption, confusion, and higher costs for students in the short term,” the letter says. “In addition, there would be no long-term benefits for students.”

Under the draft rules, colleges would have to be approved to operate in each state where they enrolled students online. Colleges have complained that the rule would be burdensome to institutions and states, and would reduce access to online education. <Read more.>

Via Dan Bauman, The Chronicle of Higher Education.