State Authorization: Seeing the Forest and the Trees of Regulatory Compliance
By Reed Scull & Diane Johnson
For many of us in distance and continuing education, there was a time when it was possible to be blissfully unaware of the regulatory efforts of federal and state policymakers. But that time has surely passed. Institutions were awakened to the existence of state statutes governing distance education with the October 2010 release of the United State Department of Education (USDOE) administrative regulation. The USDOE mandate would compel educational providers to be authorized to operate in the states where they had students.
The “state authorizations” regulation [also known as USC 600.9] has surely been challenged, in whole and in part, as well as a matter of policy and a matter of law. What has unquestionably remained is that despite the July 27, 2012 “Dear Colleague” letter wherein the USDOE announced that it will not enforce this regulation, states still expect institutions to comply with their laws. Further, the consequences for not seeking the relevant state authorizations will continue to be quite serious, ranging from a state “cease and desist” decree to sanctions from regional and special accreditation agencies. Most importantly, failure to seek appropriate authorization in states where students are served can render the professional recognition of an institution’s courses, certificates, and degrees null and void. The potential for detrimental consequences to educational providers and individual students is significant.