Monday, September 10, 2012

Group Nears Online Education Compact

One issue facing online learning has been finding ways for institutions to offer online programs that meet the Department of Education’s state authorization rules. Those regulations force colleges and universities that offered online programs to register in every state.

While the authorization requirement was struck down by the federal courts earlier this year, most experts believe it will be back when Congress gets around to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act next year. So, state regulators, staff from regional higher-education compacts, key stakeholders, and other experts have been meeting to draft an agreement that would make it easier to get state approval for online classes that are available to students throughout the nation.

The goal of the agreement would be to “eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies for states and higher-education institutions by establishing ‘reciprocity’ among states that sign on to the effort,” according to a report in eCampus News. The project, a joint effort by the Council of State Governments and The Presidents’ Forum, would reform the regulatory review and approval process that governs postsecondary institutions offering degrees across state lines and require each state to approve the terms of any agreement.

“I’ve looked at the authorization issue from all sides and reciprocity is still the best answer to meet everyone’s needs, especially the student,” said Russell Poulin, deputy director of research and analysis at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies.

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