Education Department Moves to Regulate Distance Learning

GOING THE DISTANCE: The Department of Education moved to strengthen oversight of distance education programs offered by colleges. On Friday it proposed regulations requiring online education providers to receive authorization from each state where they have students in order to receive federal financial aid. To enroll online students in Pennsylvania, for instance, a Virginia college would need state authorization from Pennsylvania.

The new rules require a blanket state authorization—not approval for individual courses or programs. They would also require institutions to document the state process for resolving student complaints regarding distance education programs. The move follows a slew of announcements that online education providers, such as Corinthian Colleges, overstated the success of its programs.

The Higher Education Act currently requires distance education providers to receive authorization only from the state in which they’re based. Various versions of the new rule have been proposed and halted since 2010, and this is the Obama administration’s final push to change state authorization of distance education. The Federal Register published the proposed regulations today, and they’re available for public comment until August 24.

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