AACRAO Comments on Proposed State Authorization Rules

AACRAO submitted comments on Wednesday on the U.S. Department of Education's proposed regulations on Program Integrity and Improvement.

The document expresses a general support for the department's efforts to extend minimum standards to determine Title IV eligibility for distance education programs and correspondence courses and for the recognition of state authorization through participation in reciprocity agreements.

The association also outlines a number of concerns with the draft rules, including inconsistencies in the new language that do not adequately distinguish between distance education "programs" and "courses." The document urges the department to continue to focus the intent of the proposed regulation on the programmatic level and to amend the language regarding institutional eligibility to clearly refer to "distance education programs," as opposed to "distance education courses."

Additionally, AACRAO signed on to community comments, drafted by the American Council on Education, that express similar concerns and delve into a few additional issues regarding how authorization to operate additional locations and branch campuses physically located in foreign countries is handled; the disclosure of information related to "adverse actions" by accrediting agencies and states; and disclosures of state complaint processes and professional licensure requirements.

The Education Department first regulated on state authorization of both physical locations and distance education in October 2010. The rules derived from concerns that states were not doing enough to oversee colleges authorized to operate in their states and sought to rein in fraud and abuse by colleges, "for-profit schools, in particular," participating in student aid programs. In 2011, a federal court invalidated the rule requiring colleges offering online programs to students in other states to seek approval from each of those states. A year later, the department announced that it would not enforce that particular piece of the regulation.

The other portions of the 2010 state authorization rule relating to physical locations were implemented last year.

In 2014, the department convened a negotiated rulemaking session on the issue of authorization for distance education programs, but panelists failed to reach consensus. As a result of that process, the Obama administration last month released its latest proposal to regulate state approval of online programs. The final rule would need to be issued before the end of October, before the next administration takes over, in order to go into effect July 1, 2017.


Related Links

AACRAO Comments on Program Integrity and Improvement NPRM


Community letter on Program Integrity and Improvement NPRM