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Feds Release Final State Authorization Rules for Distance Ed Programs

More than 5.5 million students are enrolled in distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In an effort to protect these students, the federal government has been working to improve oversight and clarify the state authorization requirements for institutions to participate in federal student aid disbursement programs.

Last Friday, the United States Department of Education published its final rules for distance education students, which incorporates feedback from postsecondary institutions and associations; distance education advocates; student and consumer advocacy groups; and state attorney generals. Effective July 1, 2018, colleges and universities will be required to receive authorization to operate from each state in which the institution enrolls students, if such authorization is required by the state.

The regulations also impose new obligations on institutions that have branch campuses in foreign countries: If 50 percent or more of an educational program is offered abroad, then the branch campus must be legally authorized by “an appropriate government authority” in that country. The department can request documentation of legal authorization from the foreign institution at any time without objection.

The final rules are available on the department website here.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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