State Authorization for Distance Education
Federal Requirements: State Responsibility for Distance Education offered by Institutions in Other States
In October 2010, U.S. Department of Education issued "Program Integrity" rules to clarify that states are responsible for all education offered to their residents, regardless of where the education originated. Today, states regulate or authorize the offering of postsecondary education within their borders with widely varying standards, policies, fees, and enforcement. After an appeals court upheld a lower court's decision to overturn the rule, the U.S. Department of Education in July 2012 said it would no longer tie Title IV Federal Student Aid eligibility to the requirement that distance education programs obtain permission in every state in hich they enroll at least one student. However, regardless of that ruling, institutions are bound by state regulations to seek appropriate authorization. Federal regulation in this area is likely to return as the U.S. Department of Education is now in the negotiated rule-making process and is again considering Program Integrity rules concerning state authorization of distance education programs.
Today, each institution must separately pursue state authorization, or get assurance that authorization is not required, in each state and territory in which it serves students. The cost of compliance can be high for institutions serving students in multiple states, and the process varies widely from state-to-state.
For more detailed information on the federal requirements, subsequent court decisions, related documents, and actions in other states, please see:
- State Authorization – An Introduction, an active webpage prepared and updated by WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies (WCET)
- SHEEO – State Authorization of Postsecondary Education
- Talking Points issued in April 2013 WCET
- State Authorization for Distance Education – Background information provided to the Board of Regents on June 7, 2013
Regional Compacts – Proposed reciprocity Agreements
WICHE and the other three regional compacts (MHEC, NEBHE and SREB) have been working with a model State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) originally created by the President's Forum and the Council of State Governments to develop a voluntary, nationwide reciprocity framework using commonly and consistently applied processes, standards, fees, and consumer protection.
Benefits for States under SARA – SARA will:
- Establish common, high-quality, cost-effective, and consistently applied standards and review processes endorsed by participating states;
- Provide consumer protection and a complaint resolution process;
- Foster the uniform collection and sharing of information among participating states about authorized institutions; and
- Over time, enable institutions and states to achieve cost savings by no longer having to engage in the duplicative process of seeking approval to operate on a state-by-state basis.
The 2013 Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 446 to authorize Nevada's three WICHE Commissioners to enter into reciprocity agreements for the purpose of authorizing certain postsecondary educational institutions to provide distance education to residents of this State. As soon as WICHE has finalized the SARA and the opportunity is available for states to consider joining the reciprocity agreement, Nevada's WICHE Commissioners will determine whether Nevada will join after considering the benefits for our State, our students, and our postsecondary institutions.
For more information on this topic, please see State Authorization – An Introduction, an active webpage prepared and updated by WCET, which includes a link to the latest version of SARA and the "Final Reciprocity Recommendations" from the Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education issued on April 11, 2013.
Current Process for Institutions Seeking Authorization to Offer Distance Education in Nevada
Out-of-State Institutions Serving Students in Nevada
- Authorization – Institutions located in other states that want to serve students in Nevada must seek authorization from the Nevada Commission on Postsecondary Education (Nevada CPE), the licensing authority that is also responsible for the oversight of private postsecondary educational institutions operating in Nevada.
- Student Complaints – The Nevada CPE is also responsible for addressing student complaints involving the institutions it licenses, and detailed information on how to file a complaint is available on its website or by contacting the Nevada CPE at:
Commission on Postsecondary Education
3663 East Sunset Road Suite 202
Las Vegas, Nevada 89120
Phone: (702) 486-7330 Fax: (702) 486-7340
- Nevada System of Higher Education – Currently, the public institutions within the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) are individually in the process of determining where authorization may be required in other states based on out-of-state students who are enrolled in their distance education classes, and then pursuing the required authorizations in those states.
Distinction From Federal State Authorization Deadlines – Institutional Review
Considerable discussion and confusion has been generated concerning other regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education governing how states review institutions in their own states that are also referred to as "state authorization" regulations. F or more information, please see WCET's "Ed Department Delays State Authorization Deadline – What Does that Mean?"