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California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Education Department Will ‘Pause’ on State Authorization Rule

06/26/2014

Inside Higher Ed. June 26, 2014.

The Obama administration is delaying its plan to develop a controversial rule that would require online programs to obtain approval from each and every state in which they enroll students, a top Education Department official said Wednesday.

Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said that the administration would not develop a new “state authorization” regulation for distance education programs before its November 1 deadline.

“We, for all intents and purposes, are pausing on state authorization,” Mitchell said during remarks at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation conference. “It’s complicated, and we want to get it right.”

Mitchell said he wanted make sure the regulation was addressing a “specific problem” as opposed to a general one. The goal, he said, should be to promote consumer protection while also allowing for innovation and recognizing that “we do live in the 21st century and boundaries don’t matter that much.”

Distance education providers and state regulators have criticized the department’s approach in recent months. The department’s last draft proposal would have effectively required states to take a far more aggressive approach to regulating the online programs beamed into their state than many currently do.

Separately, the Education Department earlier this week again delayed the implementation of its existing state authorization rule for colleges that have a physical presence in different states. Officials said they needed to give states additional time to bring their college approval processes into compliance with the federal standards.