FINAL ACCREDITATION AND STATE AUTHORIZATION REGULATIONS RELEASED

The United States Department of Education published final accreditation and state authorization regulations in October. The rules which will govern accrediting agencies and how they accredit institutions, as well as state authorization rules for distance education providers will have two different effective dates. Most of the published regulations will take effect on July 1, 2020, however some of the provisions were scheduled for early implementation beginning on November 1, 2019.

600.2 – Institutional Eligibility

600.9 – State Auth – Religious Institutions

668.43 – State Complaint Process

668.50 – Institutional Disclosure for Distance Programs

The remaining regulations pertaining to the Department’s recognition of accrediting agencies, will take effect on July 1, 2021.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR POLICY CHANGES RELATED TO ACCREDITATION

  • Eliminate geography to determine an accreditor’s scope of recognition and clarify that institutional mission, rather than geographic location, should guide the quality assessment of an institution and its programs.
  • Affirm that accreditors must respect the mission of an institution of higher education that relies upon religious tenets, beliefs, or teachings.
  • Encourage institutions to evaluate the merit of transfer credits and prior learning assessment more fairly to reduce the need for students to take – and pay for – the same classes twice.
  • Allow accreditors to establish different methods of monitoring institutional success, based on the mission of the institution and the goals of its students.
  • Provide flexibility for accreditors to support innovation in higher education, recognizing that innovation has inherent risk, and monitoring the innovation carefully to intervene when student success is at risk.
  • Engage employers more directly in the evaluation of program quality and allow for institutional decision-making models that give employers a more prominent role in recommending program or curriculum updates.
  • Provide opportunities for accreditors to increase standards for accountability, while also providing an appropriate amount of time for institutions to make the changes needed to meet those standards.
  • Allow accreditors to take earlier action when institutions are struggling to require teach-out plans and permitting accreditors to permit teach-out agreements before a school announces its closure.
  • Reduce credential inflation, especially in programs that lead to a State license, to allow low income students the opportunity to pursue those occupations and to ensure that the cost of qualifying for work does not exceed a graduate’s likely earnings.
  • Reduce the time and complexity associated with approving an accreditor’s application for initial or renewal of recognition.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR POLICY CHANGES RELATED TO STATE AUTHORIZATION

  • Make clear that an institution must identify the State in which a student is “located” and, therefore, the State in which the institution must have authorization.
  • More clearly define State authorization reciprocity agreements and reaffirm that they meet the requirements of the State authorization regulations for States that elect to participate in them.
  • Expand consumer protections for students who are enrolled in programs that lead to occupational licensure, including those enrolled in ground-based courses or programs.
  • Reduce the disclosures that institutions must provide students to reduce the cost and burden of distributing them and increasing the chances that students will consider them.
  • Eliminate requirements for States to establish new or separate consumer complaint processes for students enrolled in distance learning programs, while providing other options to ensure consumer protection.
  • Enable institutions to determine the States for which it will determine occupational licensing requirements, while requiring institutions to report that information accurately to students.
  • Enable students to continue their education, even if work or military service requires them to move to a new State, and to allow students to complete internships with potential future employers, without adding new State licensing fees to their institutions.

Institutions with questions pertaining to this or other matters of compliance with Accreditation, Federal Student Aid standards are welcome to contact our offices for additional assistance.


UPDATE: STATE AUTHORIZATION RULES TO BE DELAYED – NOT SO FAST

DID THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION MISS THE DEADLINE TO DELAY STATE AUTHORIZATION RULES?

Sure looks like it.

Following a confusing draft notice published in the Federal Register over the weekend, it seemed that the U.S. Department of Education was ready to delay a set of State Authorization rules that were scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2018. The rules, which apply to distance education providers such as online schools and colleges were to be delayed until July 1, 2020, according to the draft which was scheduled to be released on July 3rd. That date is significant as we’ve come to find out.

Clare McCann , Deputy Director for Federal Policy, Education Policy at New America pointed out the obvious point it seems everyone, myself included was missing. The 2016 State Authorization rules have in fact already taken effect as of… you guessed it. July 1st.

“The state auth distance ed story you missed: The rule is currently in effect!”

@usedgov missed the deadline, so it took effect July 1. So much for resolving confusion in the field. I’m willing to bet plenty of schools including all NC-Sara schools are out of compliance today.”

While she may not have been the first person to notice this, she was certainly the first to tweet it.

Later, Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis at AASCU clarified that since the final rule wasn’t published by July 1st, the Department will have to follow the rules in the Administrative Procedures Act which include “justifying a change in conformity with the SCOTUS 1983 State Farm Case, go through reg neg, and produce a final rule subject to the master calendar requirements of HEA”.

I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll hear about the State Authorization Rules, but all eyes are on Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education to see what their next move will be. In the meantime, absent any other guidance from ED, it seems that the follwing provisions have indeed taken effect:

CFR 600.2 – Definition of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

CFR 600.9 (c) – State Authorization Distance Education Regulations

CFR 668.2 – Definition of Distance Education

CFR 668.5 – Institutional Disclosures for Distance or Correspondence Program Regulations

CFR 600.9 (d) – State Authorization of Foreign Locations of Domestic Institutions

This is an update to a post from our montly newsletter “STATE AUTHORIZATION DISTANCE EDUCATION REGULATIONS TO BE DELAYED“.


What are the most frequently cited program review findings? Find out here.

DELAY OF STATE AUTHORIZATION RULES FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION PROVIDERS

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

The Department of Education announced it will delay the effective dates of the controversial state authorization rules that were passed at the end of the Obama administration and set to go into effect on July 1, 2018. The rules, initially introduced in 2010, have been postponed before, and this time the Department expects to delay the effective date until July 1, 2020. The delay will allow the Department to take up the issue in another round of negotiated rulemaking sessions and rewrite the rules.

The regulations mainly delineate State authorization requirements for postsecondary distance education that must be met for participation in the Title IV aid programs. Under the state authorization regulations, online programs were required to obtain approval in each state where they enrolled students. As a result, colleges and universities were left with few options; forced to either seek approval from each state individually unless they were lucky enough to be based in a state with a “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement” in place, or forgo enrolling students living in states where they weren’t approved. Public comments on the delay are open until June 11, 2018.

DISTANCE EDUCATION COMES TO NEW YORK

Distance Education New York

New York’s State Education Department votes to participate in the “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement” known as SARA

There are currently 43 states and districts participating in SARA and New York State has finally signed on. At the September 13, 2016 meeting of the NYS Board of Regents, New York State’s participation in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) was approved.

The passage of this regulation allows schools and colleges in New York to offer distance and online learning courses to students from other states and for students in New York to obtain recognized credentials from schools located states that also participate in SARA. Until now, this is something that has not been allowed under N.Y. State law and makes it easier and less expensive for colleges to do business in New York.

According to a press release, State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said “As a member of the reciprocity agreement, New York’s institutions of higher learning will save much-needed resources by only having to pay for SARA approval and participation once in New York State rather than individually to each state in which they would like to do business,”

“Savings for higher education institutions can help bring down costs for students as well as provide safeguards in the online marketplace.”

The move comes as the U.S. Department of Education inches closer to rolling out implementation guidance on new State Authorization Rules which were the subject of public comment this summer. The rules include new requirements for state authorization of online or distance learning programs, and for state authorization of branch locations in foreign countries. The proposed rules also would require schools to provide to students and prospective students a number of disclosures regarding their online or distance learning programs.

Still, several states including Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have not signed on with SARA, limiting state oversight and approval for distance education in those states.

Other states to recently join SARA include Delaware, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. Washington D.C. which is not a State, also signed on. Still several states including Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have not signed on with SARA, limiting state oversight and approval for distance education in those states.