A recent article (October 20, 2012) in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled “Facing Backlash, Minnesota Decides to Allow Free Online Courses After All” describes an issue that is being discussed by the federal government and state legislatures around the country. Do universities that offer online courses (for free or for a fee) have an obligation to register (and pay fees) with the states where their online students reside? The issue is being presented as a matter of concern for the quality of the content being offered by online course providers.
An August 7, 2012 article in The Chronicle http://chronicle.com/article/States-Move-Ahead-With/133433/ noted that states were moving ahead with requirements in spite of the failure of the federal government to require compliance in this area:
“The federal government tried to strengthen states’ roles with a 2011 regulation known as the state-authorization rule. That rule, which was opposed by lobbyists for colleges, required institutions to be authorized in each state where they were operating as a condition of being eligible to accept federal student aid for students in that state.
A court blocked the rule almost as soon as it took effect, however, and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in June, finding that the U.S. Education Department had not followed proper procedures in issuing the rule. The department has the right to set such a rule, the appellate court’s opinion states, but it will have to reissue the rule under the proper procedures before it can enforce the provisions that apply to online programs.
More recently, the Education Department released a letter saying that it would not enforce the state-authorization requirement, leading to speculation that it would not reissue the rule but perhaps would try instead to insert such a regulation into the next renewal of the federal Higher Education Act.”
The University System of Georgia maintains a web site that tracks states’ regulations for online course providers http://www.usg.edu/academics/distance_education_regulations_by_state/ USFSP’s Division of Academic Affairs, under the leadership of Regional Vice Chancellor Dr. Norine Noonan, is monitoring this situation closely for how it might affect the online courses and programs being developed at USFSP.