No ‘Deus Ex Machina’ on State Authorization
Published by: WCET | 9/22/2011
Ancient Greek playwrights would sometimes write themselves into a corner. The intricate plot, which was so carefully developed through the initial acts, did not lend itself to an easy resolution in the finale.
One answer was to let the gods and goddesses resolve the outcome. Actors playing deities would be lowered by cranes onto the stage to intervene in the action and untangle the unseemly mess created by us humans. The term ‘deus ex machina’ (gods out of the machine) describes the plot device of using contrived or unexpected events to resolve the conflict in a play.
In more recent times, the television courtroom drama Perry Mason television series was famous for members of the gallery suddenly confessing to a crime much to the relief of Mason’s unjustly accused defendant. The Martians invading the Earth in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds suddenly fall victim to a common bacteria to which they have no immunity. The aliens die, the Earth is saved, and all rejoice.
There is no ‘deus ex machina’ for the state authorization regulations.
Regarding state authorization regulations, I have heard people say that they are ‘waiting for clarity,’ ‘this will all blow over,’ ‘students came to us so we don’t have to worry about it,’ ‘certainly we must be exempt,’ and ‘the federal regulation was vacated so we don’t have to do anything.’ These sentiments were reflected in the UPCEA/WCET survey on what colleges are doing on state authorization. Many colleges are still waiting to act.
The federal state authorization regulation will probably return soon.
It is true that federal regulation was vacated, but it was only on procedural grounds. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) recently filed an appeal seeking to reinstate the distance education regulation. In presentations by and conversations with USDOE personnel, they feel that they have a good chance to win an appeal. This will take several months to resolve as it works its way through the appeal process. The appeal might fail. Even so, since the regulation was vacated on the grounds that the USDOE did not follow its procedures, they could reissue the regulation as part of a future proposed rulemaking process and overcome the court’s objections.
States still expect your institution to comply with their state laws.
State regulations predate the federal regulation and are still in force. You are expected to check whether you need to apply for authorization or not. If your institution needs authorization, you were supposed to have received it prior to enrolling the first student and, often, prior to any marketing in that state. In many states, if an institution is offering courses at a distance and is doing nothing else in that state, then you do not need to seek approval or may be exempt. But some states will require you to apply.
Federal legislation will provide little relief
There is also hope being pinned on federal regulations repealing this regulation. In a previous post, we gave the opinion that the legislation will probably not pass, if it passes it will probably be vetoed, and if it is signed by the President that it will have little impact. The state regulations are still in place and this legislation does not change that fact.
No reason to wait
In re-examining the quotes that I gave above, in reverse order:
What should we be doing?
We completely understand that this is a pain and expensive and confusing and a big time suck. If you have not started, our advice is to do what you can, including:
Also, you will be hearing more about reciprocity agreements in the coming months, but relief from reciprocity is still probably a couple years away. The exception to this is the Southern states, which are building on an existing agreement. When the time comes, be sure that your state supports reciprocity agreements. The more states that sign-on the easier authorization will be on all of us, which is good for us and good for students.
Deputy Director, WCET
State Approval page: http://wcet.wiche.edu/advance/state-approval
Twitter: @wcet_info State Authorization Hashtags: #stateauthorization #stateapp
Join WCET! Support our work on this issue.
Photo Credit: Morgue File