California Distance Education Students Now Eligible for Title IV Aid, May Keep Disbursements Already Made

By Karen McCarthy, NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

In a letter sent Friday to California officials, the Department of Education (ED) wrote that it considers California to have an acceptable complaint process plan in place as of May 26, 2019, when state authorization rules became effective, although California must make modifications to its process to be fully compliant with the regulations. Non-California public or private, nonprofit institutions will not have to take back disbursements that were made on or after May 26 to California residents who are enrolled in distance education or correspondence programs, and institutions may make disbursements to these students.

The eligibility of non-California public or private, nonprofit institutions to offer distance education or correspondence to California residents was in flux for several weeks after ED announced on July 22 that 2016 final rules on state authorization took effect—by court order—on May 26, 2019, and that California specifically did not meet the regulatory requirements in the final rules for students enrolled in distance education or correspondence programs.

California responded by establishing a complaint system that refers complaints to the institution’s accrediting agency or another agency in the state in which the institution is located. Because the 2016 regulations require that the state of California lead the investigation and resolve the complaint, ED requested in its letter that California modify its process accordingly.

State authorization rules were re-negotiated earlier this year and proposed rules agreed upon with consensus would loosen the requirements for state complaint processes. ED intends to publish the final rules with an option for early implementation as soon as possible, per its letter.


Publication Date: 8/5/2019

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