ED Announces Some Relief on State Authorization Requirements

The Department of Education (ED) announced in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-12-13 that it will no longer enforce a requirement that distance education programs obtain permission to operate in every state in which they enroll at least one student. The announcement follows an appeals court decision upholding the decision of a lower court to overturn certain portions of the state authorization regulations.

ED stresses that the DCL, consisting of Q&As related to state authorization, provides additional guidance on state authorization, but does not change existing regulations.

In response to a question about the impact of the appeals court decision on institutional requirements, the DCL states that the appeals court upheld the requirement that an institution be authorized by name by an appropriate state agency and that the state agency must have a process for reviewing and acting upon student complaints. The appeals court vacated on procedural grounds the requirement that state authorization extends to students receiving distance education in a state in which the institution is not physically located.

So, what does this all mean?

  1. Schools must continue to comply with 600.9(a), concerning authorization by name and the student complaint process.
  2. ED will not enforce the requirements of 600.9(c):

    (c) If an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State’s approval upon request.

  3. Although federal enforcement of 600.9(c) will cease, schools continue to be responsible for complying with all state laws related to distance education.

The DCL also includes Q&As on areas of state authorization that have not been affected by the court rulings and other regulatory requirements as they affect out of state students, including other locations, consortia, student complaints, and student consumer information.


Publication Date: 8/8/2012

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