Panel Discussion on ED’s Distance Education and Regulatory Updates

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Prior to institutions of higher education having to adapt to the novel coronavirus, a number of regulatory changes related to distance education were slated to, and have since, taken effect this summer.

In the latest session of NASFAA’s 2020 Summer Training Series, a group of higher education policy experts discussed the Department of Education’s (ED) negotiated rulemaking sessions, conducted from January to April of 2019, on topics intended to promote greater access for students to high-quality, innovative programs, a number of which began taking effect on July 1 of this year.

Panelists Dr. Leah Matthews, executive director of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), and Russ Poulin, executive director and vice president for technology-enhanced education and WCET executive director at Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), shared their experience and insight into the negotiated rulemaking process that led to the update, having participated in the process themselves. 

Specifically, the discussion covered new requirements for ED-recognized accreditors, student identity verification for distance education students, state authorization for distance education, and professional licensure/certification disclosure.

“Everything we're covering here came from the same set of negotiations, just because a lot of these topics seem not super related to one another, that's what ties them all together,” said Jill Dejsean, policy analyst at NASFAA. 

The panel also provided a high-level overview of changes taking place among accreditors recognized by ED and the updated definition for distance education, which was last defined in 1992.

Dejsean also provided an update on the ongoing rulemaking process for a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant proposed rule, as well as a potential update for faith-based entities that could go into effect in July of 2021.


Publication Date: 7/30/2020

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