It has been a few weeks since Ted Mitchell, the U.S. Department of Education’s Under Secretary for Postsecondary Education, announced that there will be a “pause” in proposing new federal state authorization regulations for distance education. According to Inside Higher Ed, he said: “It’s complicated, and we want to get it right.”

In this blog post, I comment on the future of the Department of Education’s “pause” and what this means for those signing the Department of Defense’s MOU. We also announce a partnership to bring you a series of two webcasts to help bring clarity on these (and many other) state authorization issues.

The U.S. Department of Education Regulation on “Pause”

As of last week, there were no immediate plans by the Department to move forward in issuing a new proposed language for the regulation. The official word is that they are on “pause” with the federal state authorization regulation. My guess is that they do “want to get it right” and that they take their time to create a new process.

Graphic of a pause button.
The federal state authorization regulation has hit the “pause” button.


  • There is no federal deadline for compliance with state authorization regulations for distance education.
  • Don’t get confused by the Department’s letter announcing a one year “delay” on enforcing the part of the state authorization regulations. That letter references sections 600.9(a) and (b), which are about regulating institutions within a state and is NOT about distance education.  You can learn more about the differences in a blog post that Greg Ferenbach of Cooley,  LLP wrote for us earlier this year.  In brief, some states are still confused about what the Department wants in terms of authorizing colleges within their state and they needed another extension. Otherwise, some colleges would have lost their financial aid eligibility.
  • It is unclear what next steps the Department will take. It is likely that they may wait until after the elections this fall before moving forward.
  • Finally, state regulations are still in force. States expect you to be in compliance prior to enrolling students, marketing, or performing any regulated activity in their state.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Memorandum of Understanding Joins the “Pause”

The Department of Defense issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that institutions must sign if they wish to offer Tuition Assistance to their students in the military.  We received questions about how to interpret the state authorization language, which, in part, refers to the U.S. Department of Education regulations.  Of course, Education’s distance education regulation is on “pause” for now.

Thank you to our friends at the Cooley LLP law firm who led us to a new FAQ from the DOD on the MOU.   How’s that for a mess of letters?

Question 29 addresses state authorization. Both Cooley and we (at WCET) are taking that response to mean that the Department of Defense will follow the Department of Education’s lead in the “pause” on enforcing state authorization. Since Defense has been referencing Education’s state authorization regulation all along, it makes sense that they wait until the Department of Education issues the new regulation.

Announcing Two State Authorization Webcasts

Need more updates and details? WCET partners with the Online learning Consortium, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association, and the Midwest Higher Education Compact’s State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement to offer two informational webcasts:

  • August 14: State Authorization for Distance Education:  The Future for REGULATIONS
    Covers the latest on the state, federal, and military regulations.  It also advises colleges on what to do next.
    (2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / Noon Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific)
  • August 19: State Authorization for Distance Education:  The Future for RECIPROCITY
    Everything you ever wanted to know about the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
    (2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / Noon Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific)

Learn more about these free webcasts. Separate registration is needed for each event and we do expect that they will fill-up. An archive of each webcast will be made available.

It is great that these organizations are working together to give you these updates.

Meanwhile, have a great summer!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!

4 replies on “State Authorization: Education Pauses, Defense Follows, and We Webcast It All”

The following is a question that I received:

“Because we currently accept military TA funds (and do not participate in Title IV funds), we have been following the TA announcements closely. I was aware that DoD moved the MOU deadline from July 23 to September 5, but your message seems to indicate that the deadline for signing the MOU may now be “on pause” – meaning that the September 5 signing deadline has also be extended until a date to be determined.”

My response:

“As you know the MOU covers a wide variety of criteria that the signatory college must agree to follow for it to be eligible to issue Tuition Assistance funds. State authorization is just one of them. The signing date has been extended to September, but no later than that. My point was limited to state authorization. For their FAQ response, they will not be enforcing the state authorization portion of the MOU until the Department of Education issues their new rules. It is unclear when the Department will issue such a regulation. Therefore, while the MOU must be signed by September, only the enforcement of the MOU clause is ‘on pause.'”


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