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Department of Education Proposes Rules on Oversight of Online Courses

July 25, 2016

Public Comments Due Aug. 24

​The Department of Education (ED) today published proposed regulations on state authorization requirements for postsecondary distance education, outlining how colleges and universities that offer online education programs to students in other states should be regulated.

This “latest and final attempt” from the Obama administration on state authorization “follows about six years of on-again, off-again rule making, during which variations of the rule have been proposed, vacated by a federal court, sent to a negotiating committee and put on ice,” Inside Higher Ed summarized. ACE and 59 other higher education associations expressed serious concerns with the first draft regulations, which were released in 2011.

The department stopped working on the regulations in 2014 after multiple sessions of negotiated rulemaking failed to reach consensus, but the process started up again last month.

The new proposed rule requires distance education programs to follow state laws governing how they become authorized to offer courses in states other than where the programs are located. However, it does not require states to conduct an active review of out-of-state institutions.

ED will accept public comment on the proposed regulations until Aug. 24 and expects to publish a final version before the end of the year.

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