Ed Department Delays State Authorization Deadline - What Does that Mean?
Published by: WCET | 5/20/2013
On Tuesday, May 21, the U.S. Department of Education is officially releasing a new ‘Dear Colleague’ letter on state authorization. I thought it might be helpful to put this new announcement into context. But first, let me start with a reminder…
There Currently is No Federal Deadline for State Authorization for Distance Education
I often get asked, “so what date is the new federal deadline for institutions to be in compliance with state authorization regulations?” The answer is that there is no deadline.
After losing a court case and an appeal in federal court, the Department said last July that it will not enforce the vacated distance education regulation. Therefore, there is no federal deadline. Meanwhile, states expect that your institution comply with their regulations before you serve the first student in their jurisdiction.
So What State Authorization Deadline is the Department Delaying?
The distance education portion of the regulation was § 600.9(c). There are two additional sections of the regulation (§ 600.9(a) and § 600.9(b)) that are not focused on distance education and remain in place. These sections focus on what the state must do to authorize an institution, including having third-party complaint processes, identifying authorized institutions by name, and other requirements.
The states were supposed to address the new federal requirements by July 1, 2011. Extensions were available to July 1 of this year. A ‘Dear Colleague’ letter in January of this year reminded states of the deadline.
Much confusion ensued and there was concern by those at all types of institutions that their students might suddenly become ineligible for aid over some technical requirements. Earlier this year, Dr. Sophia McArdle of the Department assured us that no student would lose aid because of this rule. I know that Sophia has been working hard to help states meet this year’s deadline, but there was just too much that had to be done. I applaud Sophia and the Department for keeping their word and for issuing a new ‘Dear Colleague’ letter that extends the deadline for states to have their rules comply to July 1, 2014.
While happy for the extension, I was disappointed by a couple missed opportunities:
What About State Authorization for Distance Education?
The Department apparently took the first steps to reinstate the vacated distance education rule. In a Notice of Negotiated Rulemaking issued earlier this year, they are seeking comments on this issue. You may recall that the original rule was vacated because they did not properly follow the commenting requirements. Now they are.
Deputy Director, Research & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
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