State Reciprocity Is Key to Fostering Online Programs, Policy Experts Say

August 30, 2012

State regulation of online programs has presented problems for both for-profit and nonprofit colleges seeking to enroll students across the country. The various standards and costs of licensing an online college create a complex and sometimes expensive patchwork of regulations that can be barriers for institutions.

But a group of policy experts is working on a national framework meant to provide reciprocity for institutions operating across state lines. Under guidance from the Council of State Governments, representatives of state education agencies and regional higher-education compacts are working on recommendations that would give an institution the ability to be authorized in one state and operate in every other state that joined in such an agreement. Such changes, however, would require legislative action in many states.

The group held its sixth meeting this month and is expected to finalize its recommendations soon, according to a news release from the council.

Meanwhile, the State Higher Education Executive Officers and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities have formed the Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education. That group began meeting in June with a goal of developing recommendations on how to make the state-authorization process less costly and more efficient while maintaining consumer protections and ensuring quality education.