New Rules Could Force Colleges to Drop Online Programs

States like Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Minnesota soon could have to limit the amount of options online college students may have as many institutions look to withdraw their online programs in response to a controversial new set of regulations, writes Dennis Carter at ecampus news.

Colleges with large online bases railed against the U.S. Education Department's "state authorization" rules, which require schools to gain approval from every state in which they have a registered online student.

As Carter earlier reported, the Education Department stated in a letter earlier in the year that it had no plans to rescind the controversial new rule, despite educators and ed-tech officials have said the regulation will end up imposing a financial strain on web-based colleges. This could force them to close or pass the expense down to students.

The Department of Education have repeatedly stated that online colleges must prove they are working toward certification in every state in which they operate by July 1, but many believe it wouldn't be possible to meet the deadline for state-by-state registration.

As the costs of seeking approval in difficult states could prove to be too high, college officials have made it clear that they simply won't serve the students of these states. This would create a climate where many schools will provide online classes only for students who live in states that aren't heavy-handed with compliance measures, according to a survey conducted by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WCET).

"Twenty-nine schools said they would withdraw online classes from Massachusetts, 16 said they would leave Minnesota, and 15 wouldn't serve college students in Arkansas," says Carter.

Six in ten colleges and universities with online programs have thought to have identified states that they would not be prepared to serve if state authorization rules are fully implemented.

"It'll have a chilling effect on distance education, and students will start complaining and rising up about their freedom of taking classes being curtailed in the name of consumer protections," said Russell Poulin, deputy director of WCET.

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