On December 16, 2016, The U.S. Department of Education reached final decisions on the state authorization rule for institutions offering distance learning to students who live in different states. Institutions have always been required to be authorized by the states in which they are based, but the new ruling will ensure they are also authorized in any other location other than their home state.
The new rule means that an institution in one state will be required to fill out paperwork and, possibly, pay a fee in order to offer online courses to students who reside in other states. Some are skeptical that the ruling will go into effect in the summer of 2018 as scheduled, due to uncertainty related to the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
A recent Inside Higher Ed article states that Trump has “promised during the campaign that he would seek to remove two existing regulations for each new one introduced.” Trump has his fair share of support on blocking certain “onerous rules and regulations,” including incoming chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Virginia Foxx (R-NC). Foxx has expressly mentioned the state authorization ruling and “over the last several years [has] introduced bills that would block or repeal that and other rules issued by the Education Department.” It’s also expected that the House Freedom Caucus would oppose the new rules, though they were not among those mentioned in a recent report detailing regulations it hoped the new administration would review in its first 100 days.
The Department of Education declined to comment to Inside Higher Ed on the possibility of the incoming Trump administration allowing the new rules to go into effect and Trump’s transition team has not responded to requests for comment on the state authorization rules.
A wealth of events could occur before the summer of 2018. Only time will tell if the state authorization rule becomes concrete.