Veterans Affairs Dept. Seeks Exemption From Proposed Distance-Education Rule

"Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs are raising concerns about the Education Department’s controversial proposed state-authorization rule," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

"During a public-comment period at a rule-making session last week, Debbie L. Hettler, a clinical director in the VA’s office of academic affiliations, asked Education Department officials to exempt federal facilities from the rule, which would require programs to seek approval from every state where they enroll students in distance education.

Reading from a letter signed by the VA’s acting chief officer for academic affiliations, Ms. Hettler warned that 'the costs of multiple state registrations for academic institutions will prohibit programs from participating in training at VA facilities and other national federal agencies.'

She said her office was already aware of two academic programs that have barred their students from participating in out-of-state VA training programs as a result of the draft rule. Asked afterward which programs she was referring to, she named audiology programs at Towson University, in Maryland. …

An Education Department official said the VA’s request had come as a surprise. The official said the department would work with the VA to resolve its concerns.

Last week’s rule-making session was the third in a series to consider a package of rules aimed at safeguarding federal student aid. The negotiating panel will meet for a fourth time, in May, to vote on the package. If the panel’s members fail to reach consensus, the department will be free to issue whatever rule it wants.

At the end of the third session, negotiators remained divided over how far the federal government should go in its effort to compel state scrutiny of distance-education programs."

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