Friday, March 11, 2011

Fed rule could have 'major chilling effect' on online instruction

A proposed federal rule could cripple many online education programs.

Colleges that offer online instruction nationwide would have to get approval from every state in which they operate, or those online courses could be shut down, after the Education Department (ED) proposed a controversial rule that has drawn the ire of educators and distance-education organizations.

The regulation, known as the state-authorization rule, is scheduled to take effect July 1.

It would force colleges and universities that receive federal aid to prove they are certified to operate in every state in which they have online students—a mandate, educators said, that comes at a high cost and could cripple many burgeoning online education programs.

The rule was first proposed in October, leaving schools about nine months to comply with the federal regulation.

“It will be impossible for most colleges and universities to comply by the deadline,” said Raymond Schroeder, director of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Center for Online Learning, Research, and Services. “As a result, students will be hurt. One has to wonder what will happen to those students who are halfway through a program, or in their last summer term when their university is forced to pull out in July.”

Schroeder added that state governments could see schools’ efforts to comply with the new rule as a potential “revenue source” and “charge fees beyond what universities can possibly afford.”

Schroeder's comments were featured in a March 10, 2011, eCampus News article.

Download a PDF of the full article