The first two organizations will be working on a new list of state regulators and regulations. The last organization is comprised of state regulators, who met in Denver this week. It was interesting to get their take on the ‘state authorization’ regulations.  There is promising work underway to ease the application process in the future and a we received a verbal clarification on ‘good faith’ efforts

A New Comprehensive and Updated List of State Regulations

The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO, pronounced “she-oh”) recently announced that they plan to make a director of state regulators and compendium of state regulations. The ‘Starter List‘ partners (WCET, the Southern Regional Education Board, American Distance Education Consortium and the University of Wyoming) originally created that document to help institutions begin the journey down the path to authorization.  We welcome SHEEO’s announcement and have already shared all of our information with them, so that they could get a quick start on this work.

SHEEO has contracted with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS, pronounced “en-chems”) to conduct this work and has created an advisory board to help guide the process.  They also created a web page where updates and new resources will appear.

Photo of Marianne Boeke, Russ Poulin, and Stacey Zis
Marianne Boeke, Russ Poulin, & Stacey Zis hobnobbing with regulators at NASAPS

Lessons from the NASASPS – State Regulators’ Meeting

The National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools (NASASPS, pronounced “nass-asps”) held their annual conference in Denver this week. The mission of NASASPS is to improve and promote effective state regulation of private postsecondary education.

Russ could attend only one day.  However, Marianne Boeke and Stacey Zis of NCHEMS attended all three days.  Marianne and Stacey are the chief researchers from NCHEMS working on the new state regulations list.  We agreed to each submit lessons that we learned at the conference to this posting.

The U.S. Department of Education on ‘Good Faith’.  Fred Sellers from the US Department of Education (star of the WCET webcast on this issue) spoke about the federal regulations concerning state authorization, the dear colleague letters, and the concept of “good faith” effort.  On ‘good faith’ he echoed a statement made at the Presidents’ Forum meeting last month by Assistant Secretary Eduardo Ochoa.  Both indicated that institutions are expected to do what’s next in moving the process forward.  Therefore, if you send a letter to a state and you are informed of the next steps for your institution (further clarification, filling out an application, paying fees, etc.), then you are expected to take those next steps.  You cannot wait until the deadline.  Document your steps.

Creating a Common State ApplicationSharyl Thompson, Capella University, and George Roedler, Minnesota’s state regulator, presented on efforts to create a common (or as common as possible) application among states.  Six states (AR, KS, MN, MO, OH, WI) are piloting this effort.  They started by examining similarities in the information required for renewing approvals.  They also demonstrated the very early steps of a web-based tool that an institution could use to submit its information.  While this was encouraging news, several of the questions centered around states wondering how they could add addenda for information particular to their own states or how to articulate with local databases.  Meanwhile, the pilot states were looking for more states to join them and for a funding a model to take the next steps in this work.

Update on Creating Model State Compacts.  Earlier this year Paul Shiffman, Excelsior College, wrote about the project that he heads that is creating a model state compact. This work is intended to make the state authorization process more efficient for states participating states.  The Council of State Governments, which partners in the project, provided background on elements of a successful state compact.  Alan Contreras recently retired as state regulator in Oregon and is working on the project.  He was optimistic that several states would be interested in joining this voluntary arrangement to set common standards without giving up regulatory oversight.  He felt the agreement would create greater efficiencies, save on costs, and work both from an enforcement perspective and in easing the burden on institutions. Funded by a two-year grant from Lumina Foundation for Education, the project seems to be accelerating its timeline as best it can. Once the model compact is created, participating states will need to be solicited and approvals (sometimes meaning legislation) will need to be obtained.

Another Way to Think about the Issues around State Authorization.  We tend to think that states cluster regionally.  At the NASASPS conference, there was discussion of the great need for distance education in some states to serve rural students.  States with large rural areas have different needs and often have different regulations regarding state authorization.  These states don’t want to make operating in their state too difficult because this would impact the rural population in a negative way.  It would be interesting to look at states’ regulations through a rural, suburban, and urban lens and see if there is a pattern in this regard.

What the Foundations are Saying about Quality.  Both Lumina Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke about what efforts are being made for quality assurance.  Lumina is looking at quality with what they are calling the “new triad”.  This triad is Completion, Employment, and Learning.  Meanwhile, Gates is focusing on Completion, Cost-per-Degree, and Return-on-Investment per Student.

In Conclusion

We had a great time meeting our state regulator friends.  It helped to hear their concerns.  Upon reflection, the interesting part of Fred Sellers’ talk was his gentle reminder that the federal regulations are there to protect students and taxpayers.  And as important as taxpayers are, we (as members of the higher education community) need to remember that students are, and should be, our primary focus.  Since state authorization is part of our future, we need to shift our focus on how we can use this opportunity to best help students – in our own states and across state lines.

Russ Poulin, Marianne Boeke, & Stacey Zis

Russ Poulin
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
State Approval page:   <== UPDATED!
Twitter:  @wcet_info      State Approval Hashtag: #stateapp

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