Colleges increasingly comply with state authorization regulations for distance education, but they often do so by choosing not to enroll students from some states. These are some of the findings of the latest survey on institutional progress in state authorization.

We are often asked “what are others doing about state authorization?” This survey was created to find the answer to that question and to gauge progress over time.

WCET partnered with UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association) and M-SARA (Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) in the third administration of the “What are Institutions Doing (or Not Doing) About State Authorization” survey.  The previous surveys were conducted in 2011 and 2013.

Methodology and DemographicsGraph showing that 32% of students are seeking authorization in all states.

  • The survey was implemented during January and February 2014.
  • The sample was created by combining membership and email lists from WCET and UPCEA institutions and removing duplicate responses, as well as using a list from the Higher Education Directory.
  • Overall, 577 individuals started and 498 qualified. Not all respondents completed every question. The 498 participants was significantly higher than in years past.
  • Community colleges were 25% of respondents, as well as 30% from private, non-profit, 4-year institutions and 36% from public 4-yar institutions.

Institutions Increasingly in Compliance

  • Colleges possessing all the authorizations from each state in which they serve students grew from 5% in 2011 to 25% in 2014.
  • One-third (31%) of responding colleges have yet to apply to a single state.
  • For those that have not applied to a state, some of the top reasons include: the cost is too high, waiting for SARA, collecting information for applying, and (my personal favorite) waiting for more clarification.

Graph showing the responses regrading "Progress in addressing state authorization."

Colleges Denying Admissions in Selected States

  • About one-third of respondents plan to seek authorization in every state.
  • About three-quarters (72%) of respondents decided not to admit students in some states.
  • Arkansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Maryland lead the list of states where out-of-state colleges are no longer accepting students into distance education programs.  Every state, DC, and Puerto Rico all have at least one institution not planning to enroll students within their boundaries.

Compliance is Costly

  • Overall, for those who incurred some compliance costs, the median was $7,750 and the mean was $28,833 for non-staff compliance expenses.
  • Larger institutions (more than 20,000 FTE) are averaging more than $60,000 in costs. Public, 4-year institutions are averaging more than $40,000 in costs.
  • Institutions average about .5 FTE dedicated to compliance, with more FTE engaged for larger institutions.

Table showing responses to the costs (excluding staff) for complying with state authorization.

Colleges Need to Improve Notifications Regarding Their Authorization Status

  • About half of responding institutions place notifications concerning state authorization issues on their websites and/or recruitment materials.
  • About half of schools notify students from non-authorized states when they apply or register.
  • Nearly one-in-five institutions (19%) do not notify students about authorization at all.

Thank you!

Thank you to Jenny Parks (M-SARA) and Tanya Spilovoy (North Dakota University System) for advising on the wording of the survey questions. Thank you to Jim Fong from UPCEA for his masterful data handling skills in conducting the survey. They have been fabulous partners.Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat

Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

If you like our work, join WCET!

3 replies on “What are Institutions Doing (or Not Doing) About State Authorization: 2014 Survey”

A great project ! Do you have any idea if other states are likely to send a “Maryland Letter” on the question of compliance? With so many colleges apparently not following state law, I would think that more states would try to round up the horses.

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