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Department of Education to Stop Enforcing State Regulations for Distance Learning

The Department of Education announced last week that they would no longer enforce a requirement that distance education programs must obtain permission to operate in each state in which they enroll one or more student.

The announcement, which was tucked halfway into a “Dear Colleague” letter, will surely be celebrated by higher education administrators who have been calling the regulation “archaic” since it was put into practice in 2010. Other complaints about the regulation focus on its creation of barriers to operation and the immense costs associated with compliance.

The Department was quick to point out that institutions will still need to earn the permission of states to run distance learning programs out-of-state. In response to this change, many states have altered their authorization rules to become more difficult or expensive to gain access.

However, Russell Poulin, the deputy director of research and analysis with the WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies, told Inside Higher Ed that many states do not have the manpower to enforce the authorization rule themselves. As such, he feels many colleges may simply wait to be caught for operating without permission rather than seeking out and paying for access.