For the first time, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) partnered with the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and the Sloan Consortium in providing recommendations on federal distance education policy.
They stated their positions in a letter delivered to Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education. In the letter, they addressed the upcoming state authorization regulations that the Department is expected to release for public comment this summer. (Click to view letter.)
Their hope is to influence the process prior to the Department publishing the regulations for public comment. In the letter, these organizations:
- Acknowledge the federal court’s recognition that the Department has the authority to issue such a regulation.
- Express concern that the Department’s intent to ask states to change their review procedures will cause confusion and added costs for students.
- Present recommendations including the Department return to the 2010 proposed regulation that specified the Department would simply confirm colleges are following state laws. In addition, they also supported military exemptions (for active duty soldiers, their families and Veterans Administration facilities), an exemption for institutions with only a few students in a state that would work better than the one currently in draft, and a requirement for notifying students about licensure requirements. The organizations also suggest the Department work more directly with states if it has concerns about existing state regulations and new federal regulations that would conflict with state requirements.
Individuals instrumental in the work of these recommendations includes leadership that co-sponsored the letter: Mollie McGill and Russell Poulin (WCET), Kathleen Ives (Sloan-C) and Robert Hansen (UPCEA). Additional support came from the Distance Education and Training Council, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, Presidents’ Forum and the United States Distance Learning Association.
The organizations understand that not all institutions will agree with every recommendation. They balanced several factors in their decision-making efforts, including: existing state and federal laws, the Department’s need to protect federal financial aid funds, institutional burden in compliance and protecting students as consumers. The impact on students was paramount in their considerations.
The organizations invite institutions to weigh in with their opinions to create a greater impact. This can be done now by using language from their letter. If preferred, institutions can wait until the proposed regulations are published (most likely in July) and submit reactions to specific language then. Or both can be done.
Address reactions to:
The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
Office of the Secretary, United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue S.W., Room 7W301
Washington, DC 20202