- The Department of Education this week proposed new rules for review, authorization of nationally-offered and accessible online degree programs.
- The proposed guidance will require schools to be authorized in all states where students are enrolled, to disclose to students details about licensure, refunds and accreditation actions.
- Rules reopen public commentary on a similar proposal vacated by federal court in 2011.
Two years ago, when the rulemaking process was reopened following the 2011 ruling, higher education officials in several states expressed concern about the potential rule changes and the costs and structural pressure it would put on authorizing agencies. The new guidance does not shift much of that concern, as some states may have to adjust or change laws to meet the new standards or fund new offices to accommodate requests from schools throughout the country.
This could mean that colleges with robust distance learning programs, like Arizona State University, could see dramatic changes in programs, based upon popularity in other states. That could create shifts in geographic marketing strategy and industrial pairing in many instances. Additionally, smaller colleges with a handful of online programs may bear an unsustainable expense in meeting the new federal guidelines, which could compromise hundreds of distance learning institutions at large.