Hello WCET,

Today we have a post from the WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) Special Interest Team. The Special Interest Teams are workgroups on a designated topic area. This particular special interest team worked on contributions for the network on the issue of professional licensure research and disclosures. Today, the interest team joins us to share ideas for communicating with stakeholders about licensure research and disclosures, especially how to ensure that institutional leadership are on board. Thank you to this team for sharing your ideas and lessons learned.

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

Lindsey Downs, WCET


The importance of licensure disclosures

Maintaining accurate licensure disclosures helps ensure that students know whether a program meets licensure requirements in a particular state. Sharing licensure disclosure information with students demonstrates an institution’s commitment to transparency, integrity, and student success. It also protects students from investing time and tuition dollars in a program that ultimately will not meet their licensure or career goals.A blue Caduceus as a symbol of medicine

Currently effective federal regulations require institutions to disclose online licensure program information in order to disburse Title IV financial aid funds. Effective July 1, 2020, new U.S. Department of Education regulations require institutions to share disclosures for all licensure programs, regardless of whether the program is offered on-campus or online. For example, if an institution offers a Master of Respiratory Therapy licensure program at its brick and mortar campus, the institution must disclose the following information:

  • A list of states where the program curriculum meets educational requirements for licensure.
  • A list of states where the program curriculum does not meet educational requirements for licensure.
  • A list of states where the institution has not determined whether the program curriculum meets educational requirements for licensure.

Examples of other programs that may be covered by federal disclosure requirements are online and on-campus programs in healthcare fields, such as nursing or physical therapy, and programs that lead to teacher licensure. The State Authorization Network published a detailed analysis of the new federal requirements in a recent Frontiers blog post.

In addition to federal disclosure requirements, institutions that participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) must also meet SARA disclosure requirements. SARA-participating institutions are required to inform students in writing whether a program meets educational requirements for licensure in the state where the student is located.

Providing licensure disclosures promotes transparency regarding licensure program information and serves as an important protection for students. However, completing licensure research is a complex task that requires collaboration with many institutional stakeholders. In response, the WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) assembled a Special Interest Team to review and discuss licensure research and disclosure topics.

In this blog post, several members of the Special Interest Team compiled lessons they have learned when communicating with stakeholders about licensure research and disclosure requirements, including tips on how to:

  • Assess institutional culture and identify champions at your institution.
  • Initiate licensure disclosure conversations with stakeholders.
  • Prepare for meetings with stakeholders to discuss research roles and responsibilities.

Whether you would like to learn more about the work of state authorization staff at your institution, or you are responsible for implementing institutional state authorization strategies, we hope that you find these ideas helpful.

Assessing Institutional Culture & Finding Champions

Symbol of balancing scalesAs state authorization staff, we’ve learned the importance of working within the culture and structures of our respective institutions. For example, before meeting with stakeholders to discuss compliance, it’s important to understand how state authorization furthers your institution’s mission, values, and strategic plan. Professional licensure disclosure requirements were put in place to encourage transparency with students and promote student success. Therefore, compliance with these regulations supports your institution’s mission and strategic plan.

Understanding the link between state authorization regulations and your institution’s mission will help you to explain to stakeholders why compliance is important and that a successful strategy requires support from all units. We’ve found that it’s difficult for stakeholders not to support an initiative that furthers the institution’s mission and promotes student success.

In addition to aligning compliance work to the institution’s mission and values, state authorization staff should consider other aspects of institutional culture before reaching out to stakeholders. For example, it may be a requirement or a professional courtesy to contact a department dean or chair before contacting program staff to discuss regulatory requirements. In addition to lending support to your work, leaders can introduce you to key department staff who can share program information and assist with licensure research. Deans and chairs also have the authority to implement new processes in a unit, if necessary. Therefore, maintaining open communication with unit leaders is not only a courtesy but also supports and facilitates conversations with program staff.

As you build relationships with leaders at your institution, you can begin to develop a coalition of state authorization “champions.” A teacher in front of a classroomThink of champions as key stakeholders who understand the link between state authorization, institutional mission, and student success. Champions can help educate the university community about state authorization and disclosure requirements and lend support to the development of compliance processes. With a network of champions, you can reach more stakeholders across your institution and demonstrate leadership support for the implementation of licensure disclosure policies and processes.

How to Get Your Foot in the Door

It’s not difficult to identify a potential champion or key stakeholder at your institution; however, it’s not always easy to initiate a conversation with key stakeholders about licensure disclosures. University leaders are likely addressing many other high priority topics and have a limited amount of time to focus on state authorization topics. In addition, authorization and disclosure requirements can be complex and difficult to explain. So how do you get your foot in the door to talk about professional licensure disclosures? Based on our collective experiences, we compiled some tips on how to initiate an initial conversation:

  • Consider meeting with leaders individually instead of in a large group. Not only is scheduling less complex but meeting one-on-one may facilitate more meaningful and unit-specific conversations.
  • Request your manager, director, or unit leader send an introductory email on your behalf. A message from a leader demonstrates that state authorization compliance is an important issue that has leadership support.
  • Consider sending a calendar invitation setting a meeting date and time rather than sending an email requesting a meeting. Emails are easy to ignore, but calendar invitations require action. In the invitation, include a brief summary of what you plan to discuss at the meeting.
  • In an email or meeting request, focus on why disclosures are important (to inform students of licensure requirements and promote student success after program completion).

It takes time and effort to initiate and build stakeholder relationships, but leadership support and buy-in is essential to move state authorization compliance work forward.

How to Prepare for a Stakeholder Meeting

After a meeting to discuss licensure disclosures is scheduled, you will need to prepare for the conversation. Reviewing relevant unit and licensure program information demonstrates that you are a compliance partner and that you are there to help. Preparation also shows that you are committed to understanding the licensure program, licensure field, and any relevant research challenges.

a set of medical symbolsSpecifically, to prepare for a licensure disclosure meeting, we suggest researching the answers to the following questions using the licensure program website, course catalog, and institutional data:

  • Is the program offered on-campus and/or online?
  • Is the program offered at a branch campus? If so, is the branch campus located in another state?
  • Where are online and on-ground students currently located?
  • What type of license or certification does the program lead to?
  • Is state licensure or certification required for employment in the occupation?
  • Is a license or certification offered by a national organization?
  • Is a professional license or certification a prerequisite to enrolling in the program?
  • Does the program have programmatic accreditation (e.g., CACREP, APA, CSWE)?
  • Does the program include an on-ground field experience? If so,
    • Is the field experience required or elective?
    • May the field experience take place in another state?
    • Are more than 10 students placed at a single placement facility?

Researching the answers to these questions will prepare you to discuss applicable licensure board approval and disclosure requirements, areas of high risk, and compliance priorities. Questions that you are unable to answer through research should be added to the stakeholder meeting agenda.

Lessons Learned

As state authorization staff, we have learned that it’s essential to communicate how compliance with state authorization regulations furthers an institution’s mission, values, and goals. It is also important to work within the culture of your institution to identify champions who can build support and move your work forward. Finally, it’s crucial to prepare for stakeholder meetings to demonstrate that you are a partner in developing and implementing a compliance strategy.as rubber "approved" stamp

We hope these ideas help you to either understand the challenges and goals faced by state authorization staff at your institution or provide insight into your own compliance efforts. In a future post, we’ll dive deeper into the stakeholder meeting and share tips on how to develop meeting resources and follow-up after the meeting.

The WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) Special Interest Team:

  • Emily Woods, Distance Learning Compliance Coordinator, University of Kentucky.
  • Matthew Gidley, Graduate Program Coordinator, Northern Arizona University.
  • Lisa Siefker, State Authorization Program Manager, The Ohio State University.
  • Leeann Fields, Executive Director, Office of Educational Compliance, UNLV.
  • Ashley Stettler, Program Coordinator, Eastern Washington University.
  • Cairesse Grimes, Office of the Provost Coordinator, Mount Saint Mary’s University.
  • Jacqueline Hodges, Program Manager, University of Alabama.

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