State Authorization – Proposed Regulatory Language from Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee is discussing the return of the federal regulation requiring institutions to be authorized in each state in which it enrolls students eligible for Title IV financial aid. The Committee meets next week for what is supposed to be its final chance to discuss this issue.  Today (April 16) the Department released its proposed language for the regulation.

Next week, we will discuss the language including any revisions that we wish to propose.  Finally, we are expected to vote on whether we agree with the final version of that language or not.  If we agree (and all members have to agree), the Department continues with the agreed upon language.  If not, the Department can proceed with its own language.  Following the action of this Committee, the next step would be to release the proposed regulation for public comment before finalizing it.The words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.

Highlights

I’ve not had a chance to absorb all of it.  I’m doing this late and the Department likes lots of words, so I hope that I’m getting it correct.  Here are a few highlights:

  • A 50% threshold for a program in a state is included.  This is new.
  • it an institution is authorized in its home state that authorization covers students receiving Title IV in foreign countries.
  • There is a clarification about approval from states that authorize by academic program.
  • The prohibition on allowing states to authorize “based on accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption” remains in this language. This will continue to be a point of contention.
  • There is a new exemption for members of the armed forces, their spouse or dependent child.
  • Support for reciprocity remains strong. If the language remains, current reciprocity agreements may need to make a change on how complaints are handled.
  • There are new proposed requirements for students in programs lead to certification or allow a student to sit for licensure or certification exams.

The New Proposed Language

Below is the new language as released by the Department without track changes.  You can see what they originally proposed in March in an earlier blog post.

Issue Paper 2
Program Integrity and Improvement Issues

Issue: State authorization of distance education providers as a component of institutional eligibility
Statutory cites: §§101(a)(2); 102(a)(1); 102(b)(1)(B); 102(c)(1)(B) of the HEA
Regulatory cites: 34 CFR §§600.4(a)(3); 600.5(a)(4); 600.6(a)(3); 600.9

Updated summary since March 26-28 meeting:
The definition of the term “legally authorized” under §600.2 would be amended to mean the legal status granted to an institution by a State in which the institution provides postsecondary education consistent with the requirements under §600.9.

Section 600.9(c)(1) would be amended to clarify that legal authorization in a State is for the purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA and would additionally provide that an institution is subject to new requirements in proposed §600.9(c)(11), The words “or in which the institution is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State” would be deleted and a new §600.9(c)(1)(ii) would be added in its place (see discussion below).

Section 600.9(c)(1)(i) would be amended to limit the applicability of these regulations to institutions that offer or will offer 50 percent or more of a postsecondary education program through distance or correspondence education to students in that State.

Proposed §600.9(c)(1)(ii) would require that, in addition to the requirements in §600.9(c)(1)(i), an institution must comply with any additional State requirements to be considered legally authorized in that State.

Institutional information previously required under proposed §§600.9(c)(2) and (3) would now be required along with the other institutional information requirements in amended §668.43(b) (see discussion below).

Section 600.9(c)(3)(ii) would be amended to clarify that an institution must apply for approval in its new home State.

Section 600.9(c)(4) would be amended to clarify that an institution or any of its additional locations would be considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education to students physically located in that State as long as it meets that State’s requirements for offering distance or correspondence education.

Proposed §600.9(c)(5) would provide that an institution authorized under paragraph §600.9(c)(1) or (c)(4) would be considered to be legally authorized for purposes of providing title IV, HEA program funds to a student located in a foreign location or a foreign country.

Proposed §600.9(c)(6) would provide that, in cases where a State provides programmatic approval to an institution to offer a specific program of study by distance or correspondence education, an institution would be considered to be legally authorized for purposes of providing title IV, HEA funding to students located in that State who are enrolled in those State approved distance or correspondence education programs.

Section 600.9(c)(8) would be amended to clarify that the legal authorization in a State is for the purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA.

Section 600.9(c)(10) would be amended to include that an institution is considered to be legally authorized to operate postsecondary education in that State if it is a religious institution exempt from State authorization.

Section 600.9(c)(11)(i) would provide that, in the case where an institution enrolls a member of the armed forces or a member’s spouse or dependent child in distance or correspondence education while the student’s home or permanent duty station is in a State where that institution is legally authorized, but subsequently, the student’s home or permanent duty station changes, the institution would still be considered legally authorized to provide title IV, HEA program funds to the student for the duration of the student’s continuous enrollment in that program. Section 600.9(c)(11)(ii) would provide definitions for “a member of the armed forces,” “armed forces,” and “active duty for a period of more than 30 days.”

Section 600.9(c)(12) would be amended to define “prospective student” to have the same meaning as §668.41 and would substitute “using print or electronic means” for the term “in writing” to clarify the notification process.

Section 600.9(c)(13)(i) would be amended to provide additional circumstances under which an institution authorized under a State-to-State or State authorization reciprocity agreement could lose its State authorization and the consequences that would follow as a result, unless the institution could demonstrate that it meets the requirements to be legally authorized under another approach in §600.9(c)(1). Section 600.9(c)(13)(ii) would be amended to clarify that the “additional time” for which an institution could remain legally authorized in a State would be identified by the State and agreed to by the Secretary.

Proposed §600.9(c)(14) would provide the consequences for an institution legally authorized under §600.9(c)(6) if a State withdraws its approval for the institution to offer distance or correspondence education in that State.

Proposed §600.9(d) would provide that, regardless of its compliance with the State authorization regulations under §600.9(a), (b), or (c), an institution would not be considered legally authorized for purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA for a program offered in a State if graduates from those programs are not eligible to receive certification or sit for the licensure or certification examinations necessary for them to obtain employment in the State in the occupation for which the program is intended, unless the institution obtains written acknowledgement from each student before he or she enrolls in the program that the student understands the program will not make him or her eligible to obtain employment in that State.

Change:
600.2 Definitions
* * * * *
Legally Authorized: The legal status granted to an institution through a charter, license, or other written document issued by the appropriate agency or official of the State in which the institution is physically located. Except as otherwise provided in Part E with respect to foreign institutions, the legal status granted to an institution, in accordance with §600.9, by a State in which the institution provides postsecondary education.

600.9 State authorization.
* * * * *
(c) State authorization of distance or correspondence education providers. (1) Subject to paragraph (c)(2) , (c)(3), and (c)(11) of this section, an institution described under §§600.4, 600.5, and 600.6 that offers postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which the institution is not physically located is considered to be legally authorized in that State for purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA if–

(i) For an institution that offers or will offer 50 percent or more of a postsecondary education program through distance or correspondence education to students in that State–

(A) The State has a process to review and appropriately act in a timely manner on complaints concerning the institution, including enforcing applicable State law, and has the final authority to resolve complaints and enforce applicable State law; and

(B) The institution meets State requirements that it be approved or licensed by name–

(1) By the State to offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, in that State;

(2) To offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, in that State under a State-to-State agreement administered by the participating States; or

(3) To offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, by a State that approves and annually reviews the implementation of a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity; and

(ii) Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section, the institution meets the additional requirements for legal authorization in that State as the State may establish.

(2) An institution described under paragraph(c)(1)of this section must meet the requirements under §668.43(b) with respect to providing students with information on the student complaint process.

(3)(i) An institution described under §600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 that solely provides distance education must additionally demonstrate that it is legally authorized to operate in its home State consistent with paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section. For purposes of this section, the institution’s home State is the State in which the institution’s principal office is physically located.

(ii) If such an institution changes its home State, the institution must apply for approval and provide the Secretary with documentation demonstrating that it is legally authorized in its new home State under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section to be considered an eligible institution.

(4) An institution described under §600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 that meets the requirements under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section for a State in which the institution or any of its additional locations is physically located is considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education to students physically located in that State as long as it meets that State’s applicable requirements for offering distance or correspondence education.

(5) An institution described under §600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 that is authorized to offer distance or correspondence education under paragraph (c)(1), (c)(3), or(c)(4) of this section is considered to be legally authorized for purposes of providing title IV, HEA program funds to a student located in a foreign location or foreign country.

(6) If a State under the requirements of §600.9(c)(1)(i)(A) provides programmatic approval to an institution described under §600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 to offer a specific program of study by distance or correspondence education, the institution is considered to be legally authorized for purposes of providing title IV, HEA funding to students in that State who are enrolled in the State-approved distance or correspondence education program.

(7) An institution must provide documentation of each applicable State approval or license to the Secretary upon request.

(8) An institution is not considered to be legally authorized to offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education in a State for purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA if it is exempt from State approval or licensure requirements based on accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption.

(9) The Secretary considers an institution to meet the provisions of paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(4) of this section if the institution is authorized by name to offer distance or correspondence education beyond secondary education by–

(i) The Federal Government; or

(ii) As defined in 25 U.S.C. §1802(2), an Indian tribe, with respect to students who legally reside on tribal lands, if the tribal government has a process to review and appropriately act on complaints concerning an institution and enforces applicable tribal requirements or laws.

(10)(i) Notwithstanding paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) of this section, an institution is considered to be legally authorized to operate educational programs beyond secondary education in a State if it is exempt from State authorization as a religious institution under that State’s constitution or State law.

(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, a religious institution is an institution that meets the requirements of paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(11)(i) If an institution enrolls a member of the armed forces, or a member’s spouse or dependent child, in distance or correspondence education while the member’s home or permanent duty station is in a State where the institution is authorized to offer that distance or correspondence education under paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(4) of this section, and the member’s home or permanent duty station subsequently changes so that neither the member’s home nor permanent duty station is in a State where the institution is authorized to offer distance or correspondence education under paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(4) of this section, the institution is considered to be legally authorized in that State or foreign location for purposes of providing title IV, HEA program funds to the member, or the member’s spouse or dependent child, for the duration of the member’s, or the member’s spouse’s or dependent child’s, enrollment in the program in which he or she originally enrolled, provided the member, or the member’s spouse or dependent child, is continuously enrolled at the institution.

(ii) For purposes of this section–

(A) A member of the armed forces is a member of the armed forces who is on active duty for a period of more than 30 days;

(B) The terms “armed forces” and “active duty for a period of more than 30 days” have the meaning given those terms in 10 U.S.C.101.

(12) An institution described under paragraph (c)(1), (c)(3), or (c)(4) of this section that loses its State approval to offer distance or correspondence education is considered to be an ineligible institution in that State and must immediately inform current students and prospective students, as defined in 34 CFR 668,41, in writing, including through electronic means, that it is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in distance or correspondence education in that State because the institution is no longer considered to be legally authorized by that State. This information must also be immediately posted prominently on the institution’s website.

(13)(i) If an institution was considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education by a State under paragraph (c)(1)(i)(B)(2) or (c)(1)(i)(B)(3) of this section and the State withdraws from the State-to-State or State authorization reciprocity agreement, or the non-State entity administering the State authorization reciprocity agreement ceases to operate, the institution is considered an ineligible institution in that State. If this occurs, the institution must immediately inform current and prospective students, as defined in 34 CFR 668.41, in writing, including through electronic means, that it is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in distance or correspondence education because the institution is no longer considered to be legally authorized by the State, unless it can demonstrate that it meets the requirements to be legally authorized under another approach described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. This information must also be immediately posted prominently on the institution’s website.

(ii) Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(13)(i) of this section, the Secretary considers an institution to remain legally authorized in that State for such additional time as identified by the State and agreed to by the Secretary based on an ongoing review of documentation submitted by the institution of steps taken and to be taken by the institution and the State to enable the institution to meet the requirements of paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), and (c)(4) of this section, as applicable.

(14) If an institution offering distance or correspondence education is considered to be legally authorized consistent with paragraph (c)(6) of this section and the State withdraws its approval for the institution to offer the distance or correspondence education program in that State, the institution is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in the distance or correspondence education program in that State. The institution must immediately inform current students and prospective students, as defined in 34 CFR 668.41, in writing, including through electronic means, that it is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in that distance or correspondence education program. This information must also be immediately posted prominently on the institution’s website.

(d) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section, an institution is not considered to be legally authorized for purposes of institutional eligibility for funding under the HEA with respect to programs offered in a State if graduates from those programs are not eligible to receive certification or sit for the licensure or certification examinations necessary for the graduates to obtain employment in the State in the occupation for which the program is intended, unless the institution obtains written acknowledgement from each student before enrollment that graduation from the program will not enable the student to obtain employment in that State.

Summary of change to §668.43:
Section 668.43(a) and (b) would be amended to require that an institution disclose to enrolled and prospective students specific information regarding the student complaint process if the institution (1) offers or will offer 50 percent or more of a postsecondary education program through distance or correspondence education to students in a State and is authorized in that State under a State-to-State agreement or a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity; or (2) is located in a State but has either an additional location at which 50 percent or more of a program is offered or will be offered, or a branch campus, that is located in a foreign country, i.e., not in a State.
In conjunction with current regulations, these additions would mean that an institution would be required to make the information regarding the student complaint procedures that apply to distance/correspondence education and foreign locations/branches readily available to enrolled and prospective students through appropriate publications, mailings or electronic media (§668.41(d)). In addition, a brief description of this student complaint procedure information would be incorporated into the list of information that an institution must provide to enrolled students in an annual notice, together with an explanation of how to obtain the information (§668.41(c)). An institution would be required to provide the annual notice containing this information on a one-to-one basis through a direct individual notice to each enrolled student. The institution would be required to make this notice through an appropriate mailing or publication, including direct mailing through the U.S. Postal Service, campus mail, or electronic mail. Posting on Internet or Intranet Web sites would not constitute notice. If the institution disclosed the consumer information by posting the information on a Web site, it would be required to include in the notice the exact electronic address at which the information is posted, and a statement that the institution will provide a paper copy of the information on request (§668.41(c)(2)).

Change:
§668.43 Institutional information.
(a) Institutional information that the institution must make readily available to enrolled and prospective students under this subpart includes, but is not limited to—
* * * * *
(6)(i) The names of associations, agencies or governmental bodies that accredit, approve, or license the institution and its programs and the procedures by which documents describing that activity may be reviewed under paragraph (b)(1) of this section; and

(ii) The information regarding accreditor and State complaint processes required under paragraphs (b)(2), (b)(3) and (b)(4) of this section;

* * * * *

(b)(1) The institution must make available for review to any enrolled or prospective student upon request, a copy of the documents describing the institution’s accreditation and its State, Federal, or tribal approval or licensing.

(2) The institution must also provide its students or prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accreditor and with its State approval or licensing entities and any other relevant State official or agency that would appropriately handle a student’s complaint.

(3) For an institution that offers or will offer 50 percent or more of a postsecondary education program through distance or correspondence education to students in a State and that is authorized in that State under a State-to-State agreement or a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity under 34 CFR 600.9(c)(1)(i)(B)(1) or 600.9(c)(1)(i)(B)(2), respectively, the institution must disclose to enrolled and prospective students in accordance with §668.41 that–

(i) The institution is participating in a State-to-State agreement, or a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity, as applicable; and

(ii) If the student is not satisfied with the result of the student complaint process provided for under the agreement, the student may utilize the student complaint process in the State in which the student receives the distance or correspondence education.

(4) For an institution that is located in a State that has an additional location at which 50 percent or more of a program is offered or will be offered or a branch campus that is located in a foreign country, i.e., not in a State, the institution must disclose to enrolled and prospective students in accordance with §668.41 that students at the branch campuses or additional locations may utilize the complaint process of the State in which the main campus of the institution is located for any complaints regarding that additional location or branch campus.

= = = = == = = = =

Would love to hear your comments.

Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu

If you like our work, join WCET!

 

Seeking Your Input on Online Consortia and Online Community Colleges

State U Online: An Overview

Last year, New America published State U Online, a report I wrote after over a year of research. The project, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, was based upon the idea from our grant that, “Scaling [online education] is demonstrably possible in the for-profit sector. What are the barriers to similar growth in the public sector? Why have some state efforts succeeded and others failed, and what are the implications for states looking to move online?”

Admittedly I did not know a lot about online education when I started my research in September 2011, and I naively believed that this report would be straightforward. But the arrival of MOOC mania created a lot noise that threatened online education’s nuance, and the report’s relevance.

Like any research project, I started by gathering as much information as I could—interviewing administrators, faculty, and students involved with online education and reading a lot of source material about best practices in eLearning. What came across loud and clear was that despite the MOOC hyperventilation gripping higher education and policymakers, MOOCs played only a very small role in online education. Colleges and universities have been online for years, and the quality of their offerings continues to improve as technology becomes more robust and as best practices are disseminated among dedicated faculty and administrators.

So I delved deeper. I researched the history of distance education and traced the development of online education. I came across a report that SHEEO and WCET published in 2003 about “Virtual College and University Consortia,” and found that these consortia seemed like a great idea to overcome the many barriers in place that prevent scaling of online education. So why did many of the consortia listed in the report no longer exist ten years later? As I found out through interviewing many former administrators who had worked in consortia, the overwhelming reason given for why the consortium didn’t succeed was that oftentimes the consortium enabled institutions to get up and running online but once institutions established their own programs, they (or their boards) became reluctant to share money and/or enrollment.

But it seemed to me that consortia made sense back then, and they make even more sense now. While I was conducting my preliminary research, the biggest barriers to scaling online and eLearning efforts that became apparent were: funding and costs; faculty buy-in and quality concerns; advertising; and serving a diverse student population with differing needs. Collaborative practices seen in consortia could help battle and overcome all of these barriers through shared costs, reduction in duplication, institutionally-organized professional development and course development support, simplified advertising to students, and simplified credit transfer for “swirling” students trying to finish degree requirements.

After dozens of interviews, I distilled my paper down to what I call the “Steps of Online System Collaboration”:

Graphic with five "steps" of collaboration:  1) Clearhinghouse, 2) Shared Contracts, 3) Shared Student Services, 4) Shared & Articulated Credentials, and 5) Shared Credentials Beyond State Borders

Each step builds on those before it, leading toward increasingly integrated systems in which students can move freely among institutions within a state and eventually beyond state lines. I realize this is a very simplistic way to visualize the relationships, but I thought of this illustration as a way to spur public institutions to consider making linkages to other institutions depending upon the various governance structures within their state. I know that public higher education governance varies widely from state to state, so my hope was that state and institutional policymakers could see the various points of collaboration and incorporate them into their own structures as they see fit. (For a more in-depth explanation of each of the steps, see page 9 of State U Online.)

What I’ve Learned

Since the publication of State U Online, I have received good feedback on my “Steps to Online System Collaboration” model. Namely, many of these categories may not be as distinct or as linear as I have made them out to be. And for some states, there are many barriers already in place that prevent institutions from even being able to come together and collaborate in the first place. I’m hoping that Frontiers readers can use the comments section as a sounding board to provide their thoughts on State U.

What I’m Doing Next: Community College Online

I have taken what I’ve learned from State U and I am now working on Community College Online, a new and related project funded by the Kresge Foundation (slated for release late this fall). Community colleges were some of the first online innovators given that their students needed online flexibility well before it was on the radar of more selective institutions. For this project I plan on applying the frame of a consortium model to highlight online community college partnerships and online articulation agreements with four-year institutions.

I also plan on focusing not only on online courses and credentials, but also on technological tools and platforms used to help students persist. The idea here is that almost all students are online students in some way, either through taking their credential online, mixing online and face-to-face courses, or even accessing online services such as tutoring and advising. I would be very interested to hear from Frontiers readers what community colleges I should feature and what are the most important institutional, state, and federal policy concerns I should highlight in this report.

I can only become an expert in this issue if I surround myself with experts in the field. As such, you can get in touch with me at fishmanr@newamerica.org to share your thoughts and ideas.Photo of Rachel Fishman

Rachel Fishman
Policy Analyst
Education Policy Program
New America Foundation
fishmanr@newamerica.net

 

 

Proposed State Authorization Regulations (Second Set): Provide Your Feedback

April 7, 2014

Provide your input on some proposed federal regulations regarding state authorization and distance education. If you are concerned, inform the Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee is discussing the possible return of the federal regulation requiring institutions to be authorized in each state in which it enrolls students eligible for Title IV financial aid. Just prior to the March meeting, the Department released a first draft of proposed regulatory language. After giving you a chance to comment, I gave you my opinions.

The Negotiated Rulemaking ProcessThe words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.

To remind you of the process, the Department released its proposed regulation for us to discuss at the March meeting. Through discussions and follow-up proposals, the Committee provided suggestions and improvements. Prior to our next meeting (April 23-25), the Department will released its proposed final language. At the April meeting we will discussion changes to that final language and we will vote on the final language. “Consensus” requires an affirmative vote of all 15 negotiators. A high bar to achieve. Failing consensus, the Department may propose its own regulations.

Deb Bushway (Capella), Leah Matthews (DETC), and I are members of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. Michael Gradisher (Pearson), Marshall Hill (NC-SARA), and Elizabeth Sibolski (Middle States Commission on Higher Education), are alternates.

The Issues for Your Input

From the Department, we have asked that they clarify their authority and the constitutionality of the proposed regulations.  I’m not asking you to comment on that question (as it is a legal one for the Department), but will share their response with you.

I invite your feedback on issues that will probably have the greatest impact (if enacted) on the distance education community:

Removal of Exemptions

The Department seems to be very interested in keeping the language that would not allow states to exempt institutions providing distance education in their state based upon “accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption.” At a minimum, even if the Department changes its mind and allows exemptions, the states probably will be expected to identify all institutions approved in their state by name. Therefore, there would be no more states that will simply say that you are exempt and do not officially notify you of that status.

The Department stated its interest in “active review” by the states and that simply using accreditation was not truly a review. It is unclear how much review would be required as a federal minimum.

Reciprocity

The Department is supportive of reciprocity and included it in its language specifically as a means to authorization. The requirement that students be able to complain in the institution’s home state and the student’s official state of residence is contrary to current SARA policy. We’re trying to get that changed. I suggested that if the two states are working together the student could not file another complaint in the state in which they are residing.

A subgroup of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee proposed additional very strict requirements on reciprocity. Essentially they were asking for reciprocity as long as the institution obeyed all the laws, requirements (e.g., bonding, refund, cancellation policies), student notifications, and paid the fees of each state. In my view, the proposal would negate reciprocity.

New Licensure Requirements

Expect to see new requirements regarding programs that lead to licensure, such as nursing, teacher education, social work. Although there are those that disagree with me, I suggested that institutions be required to notify current and prospective students whether the institution has the proper approvals in each licensure program.

The group that proposed the stricter reciprocity requirements also proposed that the institution’s programs also “satisfy the licensure or certification requirements of any State where they are offered.” If a student “wishes to enroll in such a program in a State where the program does not satisfy the licensure or certification requirements” the student must provide “in his/her own handwriting” a “signed and dated statement on or before enrolling that he/she intends to obtain employment in an indentified State for which the program satisfies occupational licensure or certification requirements.”

New Military Provision

After discussion by the Committee, I proposed an exemption for active military personnel. It would be good to assure that soldiers, sailors, and airmen are covered wherever they are stationed. Given that the federal regulation is based upon state law, it might not be possible to do anything.

Provide Your Feedback

It is difficult to say exactly what the Department will finally propose. The above should all still be considered as suggestions. It would be good to get your feedback on the impact that any or all of them might have. Please use the comment section below or write me at rpoulin@wiche.edu with “Neg Reg Feedback” in the subject line. I received so much feedback last time that I did not get to thank each of you personally. I did read and appreciate the comments!

If you feel strong enough about any of these issues, I strongly suggest writing Secretary Arne Duncan as soon as possible:

U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

They are drafting the language now. When the next set of language is published, I will share it with you.Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat
Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu

If you like our work, join WCET!

 

Virginia Tech Rethinks Instructional Design and Faculty Development Support

In an ideal world, we would all have custom, personalized support standing at the ready to provide just-in-time response to our need for guidance and support. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could provide this for faculty developing online courses for our institutions?

But we don’t live in an ideal world; we live in a world of increasing demand and limited resources. The reality is that the assistance and support we provide to faculty developing online courses needs to be manageable, scalable, and effective all at the same time.

At Virginia Tech, we recently went through a period of rethinking, redesigning and revising the instructional design and development support we provide to faculty who are developing online, hybrid, and flipped classrooms. The process of review and revision continues – and always will – but the results of our new approach tells us we’re on the right track. I’ve been asked to share the approach so that others can follow us on this path and make it their own.Virginia Tech Logo: Invent the Future

Responding to Growth in Online Courses

Like other institutions, we have seen online courses at VT grow steadily and the trend continues. At this point, nearly all of the programs at VT offer some courses online and the others are in the process of developing them. Our current strategic plan calls for us to expand high-quality distance learning and to ensure that faculty have the skills necessary to develop courses with meaningful interaction and active learning opportunities. Along with professional development for faculty, solid instructional design of online courses is key to answering this call.

However, VT is home to just under 30,000 students, about1400 faculty, and only four full-time instructional designers for online learning, each with responsibilities in addition to supporting faculty.

Modernizing our Faculty Development Philosophy

The instructional design staff supporting faculty developing online courses historically focused primarily on faculty receiving a course release for one semester for which their department was compensated under an award from the Provost’s office. The goal was to complete development within this one semester. Unfortunately, that was a rare occurrence. As a result, many course development projects lingered, funds were encumbered, and online courses were taught without being completely developed and reviewed for quality assurance.

In the Spring of 2013, the approach changed. Borrowing from Meirer (2000) and Piskurich (2006), we streamlined the process for faculty developers and instructional designers. Building upon previous successful initiatives that formed faculty learning communities, we invited faculty receiving awards to join a community focusing on the practice of developing high-quality online courses.

We adopted a cohort approach to project-based professional development in the form of an online course. This online course structured the instructional design process in which peers contribute to and reviewed the work of others in the cohort. While participating in the cohort, faculty developers met regularly with instructional designers providing guidance and assistance with meeting the requirements of the online course. Through this approach, we effectively established the beginnings of a community of practice (Wenger, 1998 ). Faculty completing the professional development and review of their courses were awarded the Master Online Educator certification and joined the community of faculty holding this certification.

During that semester, 24 faculty received awards allowing course release time to develop online courses. They participated in the professional development that began with a one-day workshop at the start of the semester followed by participation in the online course and regular meetings with their assigned instructional designer. The professional development provided assignments and due dates for course elements that effectively removed the ‘task master’ role from the instructional designer. That role was transferred to the facilitator of the professional development course. However, most of the incentive to stay on track came from peers who were required to review submitted assignments. Faculty also shared information and peer reviewed submissions of evidence and examples meeting the standards of the Quality Matters (QM) rubric. The review took place near the end of the development and prior to presentation of the course to the department head for approval.

Photo of Virginia Tech faculty being attentive.

After years of success with faculty support, Virginia Tech sought to make it even better.

Success in the Initial Trial of the New Faculty Development Process

For the first time, all 24 faculty involved fully developed their online course in one semester. They submitted evidence and examples for peer review for quality assurance, and presented both the outcomes of the peer review and the fully developed course to their department head for approval. All awarded funds were distributed to the department with none remaining encumbered over additional semesters. The difference was the streamlined process focused on development and not on the instructional design theories and process.

In Fall 2013, the instructional design staff merged with other units at VT to become Networked Learning Design and Strategies (NLDS) , a unit of Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS). This merger was in response to our strategic plan and associated initiatives. It expanded the scope of the instructional design staff from faculty who receive awards to develop online courses to all faculty seeking to develop online, hybrid and flipped classroom approaches. There was now an even more pressing need for scalability.

Our Process

The process as it is designed now adheres to our version of the KISS approach: Keep It Straightforward and Simple. Our faculty know their subject matter, we know the instructional design process. We each need to know enough about what the other knows to get the job done but we don’t need to be experts in each other’s fields.

The process is based on the ADDIE model but recognizes that the stages of that model may not be exclusive. It begins with the full-day workshop in which we focus on analyzing the teaching approach, the student audience, and the content with regard to online delivery. We ask faculty to participate in surveys to indicate their preferred learning styles, teaching styles, and instructional theory. Through these activities, they become aware of how these can influence their pedagogical approach, the way they structure their online course, the activities they choose, etc. We take a light approach, making it fun and adding discussion with sharing of personal stories. We do this over coffee and lunch is provided.

In the afternoon, we focus on the ‘bricks and mortar’ of the syllabus for their course, looking at measurable objectives, aligned assessments, weighting assessments, developing rubrics and a discussion of translating the proposed assessments for the delivery format. These topics are visited again in the online course with assignments contributing to the development process.
Throughout the online course, other topics are visited such as scaling up to large enrollment, managing the online classroom, incorporating group work, using peer reviews effectively, etc. These are introduced as part of the review of the syllabus for the online course in which faculty are now students as well as developers.

In the workshop, faculty developers are provided a statement of expectations. This describes what is expected of them with regard to participation and outcomes and what they can expect from us with regard to assistance and guidance, and what they should expect from each other in peer interaction that is a major element of the process. We also review the quality assurance process and obtain commitment to participation in that process.

In addition to working with instructional designers and developing courses throughout participation in the online course, faculty submit evidence and examples to indicate the extent to which they meet the standards of quality contained in the Quality Matters rubric. The quality assurance review process takes place throughout the semester and culminates in a final, scored review. The completed course and the results of the quality assurance review are presented to the department head for approval.

Throughout this process, faculty developers are encouraged to identify areas of research and to support fellow faculty in identifying research opportunities particularly in areas for future collaborative research. Our goal is to offer collaborative research opportunities for faculty to become leaders in the practice of effective, interactive, successful teaching in whatever delivery format they offer their courses.Faculty looking at a laptop drinking coffee

Continuous Improvements

In Spring 2014, NLDS offered faculty four options to join learning communities forming cohorts focused on flipped classrooms, technology-enhanced learning in traditional classrooms, online course development and redesign of existing online courses. Enrollment in those cohorts totaled 24 with 10 in Flipped Classroom, eight in Online Course Development, and five in Online Course Re-Design (one faculty member enrolled in two cohorts). This enrollment was significant as none of the faculty participating received funding or course release in order to participate. Two faculty members are incorporating the experience into their sabbatical activity.

The approach remained the same for each of the cohorts and faculty developers will earn certification as Master Instructor in the area of teaching that was the focus of their cohort. The one change in addition to multiple cohorts was the distribution of the quality assurance review throughout the process. The professional development and peer review assignments were revised to allow the development and submission of evidence and examples meeting the QM rubric standards throughout the semester, removing that process from the end of the semester and allowing more time for development. Also, the presentation to department heads will now take place in a ‘faculty showcase’ event to which all faculty in the department and across the campus will be invited.

As expected, without course release, there has been some attrition in the enrollment in the cohorts but those not fully participating remain involved with consultations with instructional designers and ‘lurk’ in the online classroom. They continue with the development of their courses and they remain connected with peers in the process.

What’s Next?

The learning communities (cohorts) will again be offered in Summer 2014 with an expected increase in enrollment due to faculty availability during this time and the expected return of funding provided through the Provost office. Our plan now is to move to one cohort in which the professional development remains an online course with a full day workshop at the start. We realized that the design and development of the various formats share much in common and that faculty are interested in how strategies and pedagogy are adapted for each.

By combining all faculty developers in one cohort, we will foster the sharing of strategies and information common to online, blended, hybrid and flipped course development and the sharing of specialized strategies and skills across the different design approaches. This umbrella approach will allow us to continue to scale up to meet what we expect to be increasing demand with limitations on the ability to match that demand with additional personnel.

From conversations and response to conference presentations, it is clear that others are dealing with the same issues and challenges. We are in the early stages of conducting research on the strategies we are using and invite others to share their experience as we have shared ours. Let’s keep the conversation going.

References:

Meier, D. (2000). The Accelerated Learning Handbook. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Piskurich, G.M. (2006) Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right. San Francisco, CA: Wiley

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Photo of Lujean Baab of Virginia Tech

Lujean Baab

 

Lujean Baab
Senior Director
Networked Learning Design and Strategies (NLDS)
Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS)
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Email: lbaab@vt.edu

 

Proposed State Authorization Regulations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

March 24, 2014

On March 20, I posted the new  language proposed by the U.S. Department of Education staff regarding federal requirements for the state authorization of distance education.  In that post, I asked for comments and I received quite a few. I apologize for not responding to everyone personally, but I appreciate your questions and input.

In this blog post, I will focus my reactions on a few of the most important topics…the good, the bad, and the ugly.  (In case you need background music while reading).

If I don’t cover your question or comment, I still have them in mind.  Anything written here should be taken as my personal interpretation and opinion.  Unless otherwise stated, the content of this post does not reflect the opinions or positions of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee or the Department.

Proposed Language Came from the DepartmentThe words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.
Some assumed that the U.S. Department of Education’s  Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (of which I am a member) had a hand in drafting the proposed language.  We did not.  We will consider this draft language at a meeting this week with a plan to try to finalize it at an April meeting.

I have heard from a few of the other negotiators and we were surprised at the length and depth of the regulations proposed by the Department.

Don’t Treat Distance Education Differently Unless Absolutely Necessary
Before getting to the details, I need to reiterate that distance education should not be treated differently just because it is a different mode of instruction.  This has been a recurring theme of mine.  If distance education is treated differently, there needs to be a good reason to do so.

The Good – The Idea of Reciprocity is Embraced
In the first section, reciprocity agreements among states are specifically mentioned as paths toward authorization.  While reciprocity has previously been deemed sufficient in Dear Colleague letters issued by the Department,  this is the first time that the Department has suggested that it be part of the regulation.

I received several questions about the mention of two types of reciprocity:

  • A “State-to-State agreement administered by the participating States” — I have heard of pairs of states agreeing to recognize the authorization of each other’s institutions.
  •  A “State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity” — This reflects the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement operated by the regional higher education compacts or SECCRA, which is operated by the Southern Regional Education Board.

Both are agreements among states, but the Department seemed to think it is necessary to separate these out by what type of entity administers the agreement. Personally, this division seems unnecessary.

There are other requirements for reciprocity, such as posting notices about participating in a reciprocity agreement, posting notices if an institution loses its authorization gained from a reciprocity agreement, and the procedures if a reciprocity agreement administered by a non-state estimate ceases to exist.  Some of those requirements may be redundant with other regulations, but the good news is that reciprocity is seen as a key alternative in allowing institutions to obtain the necessary approvals.

The Bad – No More Exemptions for Distance Education Institutions
I received several questions about this proposed language:

(7)  An institution is not considered to be legally authorized to offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education in a State if it is exempt from State approval or licensure requirements based on accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption.

Phil Hill of the e-Literate blog wrote a nice piece on this issue.  As I read the above language, this would mean that states that now use exemptions for distance education could no longer do so.  If implemented, this would call into question the status of all the institutions serving students in those states.  Phil Hill states that the proposed regulations “would represent a dramatic increase in federal control of distance education and compliance burden for institutions.”

This is a huge issue and I disagree with it for the following reasons:

  • The federal government is overriding local judgment of the acceptance of exemptions.  This is “big stick” that the Department should be careful in employing.  If exemptions are inadequate, then there needs to be adequate proof of such a claim.  To date, I have seen none.
  • This requirement employs thinking that is inconsistent with §600.9(a), which details the situations in which a state may exempt certain in-state institutions from authorization.  If the state can be trusted to exempt an institution that has a sprawling physical infrastructure and enrolls 20,000 students within its own state, why can’t that same state be trusted to exempt an institution that has no physical infrastructure and serves 2 students in the state?  There is only one answer:  distance education is being treated differently.  It should not be.
  • From a practical point-of-view, I don’t think the Department is aware of the massive burden and confusion that this one little sentence will cause.  States will need to write laws and regulations, develop administrative processes to review institutions, hire staff to conduct the reviews, and likely will need to pay for it from new fees that will be passed along to students.  Institutions and (more importantly) their distance students in the states that used exemptions would be in a state of limbo.  They will be waiting while the state develops a new process and the institution decides whether to comply.  If there were evidence that this disruption would help students, I would be all for it.  I have not seen that evidence.

How big will the lack of exemptions be?
I had Marianne Boeke from NCHEMS (and helps me with state authorization work) do a quick analysis of the states that use exemptions…and it all depends on how you count.  At least 19 state regulatory agencies would definitely be affected and it is a good guess that at least another ten would need to change processes.  For another handful, it is unclear.  In the Phil Hill article, Greg Ferenbach (Cooley, LLP)  is cited as saying that three-quarters of the states would need to make changes. An estimate of 25 – 40 states seems reasonable.  That’s a big impact.

Allow Exemptions by Name?
Now…allow me to be seemingly inconsistent.  Since authorization has a basis in protecting consumers (in this case, students), I can see the need for the Department to require states to identify those institutions that are exempted by name.  Yes, this does place an extra burden on those few states who do nothing.  However, I wonder how adequate the consumer protection scheme could be in a state that is unaware of which institutions are serving their constituents.

The Ugly – More Questions than Answers (But It’s Still Early)
I’m a sucker for elegant language.  I recently read “James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights” by Richard Labunski.    I came away for a new-found appreciation for the elegance of the wording in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.   Madison and his committee started with more than 200 proposed amendments, many of which were very long.  They finished with twelve amendments (only 10 were ratified) and trimmed the wording to the essential concepts. Phil Hill observed that the proposed regulation “would replace these 75 words with 1,086 words of new requirements.”

Less is often more.

The extra words seem to have raised more questions.  Since I’ve gone on too long already, I’ll keep these short:

  • The Department needs to do more education with states and institutions on what they expect from the complaint process.  States are supposed to have a third-party complaint process in place by July of this year.  It is amazing how many higher education leaders do not know this.
  • Why is an institution held to be at fault for a state not adopting a complaint process that is acceptable to the Department?
  • What all is included in the need to be authorized?  Single credit courses, practical experiences in other, courses part of multi-state joint degree program, courses that are part of an enrollment sharing consortium?
  • Does “in writing” mean “on paper?”
  • What does a notice being “prominently displayed on website” mean?
  • The term “where the student legally resides” would change state authorization law from where the student is to where there place of legal residence. This is not consistent with many state laws and past guidance.  That was not the intent is it?
  • What about students who are members of a tribe, but do not reside on tribal lands?  What about tribal colleges that are not on a tribal lands?
  • Do you plan to educate people that “religious institutions” means only those that “awards only religious degrees or certificates”?  (See 600.9(b)(2))
  • Why is the losing authorization requirement applied only to institutions offering distance education?  Why is not applied to all institutions?
  • Why is the notice about the ending of a reciprocity agreement applied only to the reciprocity agreements administered by a non-state entity?  Why is it not also applied to agreements administered by states?

Final Word – Keep Going  with Your Authorizations
I was asked if institutions should hold up on their authorizations.  I say keep going.  It looks like the Department wants to bring it back.  If you wait to put your applications in with all of those who wait until the federal regulation is in place, don’t expect the states to do you any favors.  You are better off being ahead of the coming on-rush of applications.  Remember, regardless of what happens with the federal regulations, states still expect you to follow their laws.

Enough for now.  It should be an interesting week.

Thank you!

Russ Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu

If you like our work, join WCET!

Proposed Federal State Authorization Language: Provide Your Input

March 20, 2014

As you may know, I was selected to the U.S. Department of Education’s Program Integrity Negotiated Rulemaking Committee.  One of the regulations that we are considering is the federal rules regarding the state authorization of institutions offering distance education.  First issued in October 2010, that regulation (§600.9(c)) was vacated by the federal courts and that ruling was upheld on appeal.  Based on those actions, the Department agreed that it would not enforce the state authorization regulation

It is important to note that the regulation was vacated because it was found that the Department did not follow the proper processes in implementing it.  The Negotiated Rulemaking Committee is the next step in remedying that error.

Provide Your InputThe words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.
The Department released its new proposed language last night.  In this blog post, I provide both the original language and the proposed new language.  Beginning next Wednesday (March 26), the Committee will begin discussing and debating this language.

Marshall Hill (a fellow negotiator) and I would like your input.

The language in the proposed regulation is often difficult to follow.  You may want to look especially at the text in the “Summary of Change” section to understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Provide feedback in the comment space on this blog or email me.

 

Original Language from §600.9(c) that was Vacated by the Courts

(c) If an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State’s approval upon request.

 

Proposed New Language from the Department of Education

Note:  The following is the issue paper provided by the Department of Education.  The first part is an explanation of the proposed changes. Everything after the word “Change” is the proposed new regulatory language.

Issue Paper 2

Program Integrity and Improvement Issues

Issue:                          State authorization of distance education providers as a component of institutional eligibility

Statutory cites:           §§101(a)(2); 102(a)(1); 102(b)(1)(B); 102(c)(1)(B) of the HEA

Regulatory cites:        34 CFR §§600.4(a)(3); 600.5(a)(4); 600.6(a)(3); 600.9

Summary of Change:  Section 101(a)(2) of the HEA defines the term “institution of higher education” to mean, in part, an educational institution in any State that is legally authorized within the State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education.  For purposes of title IV of the HEA, section 102(a) of the HEA provides that the term “institution of higher education” means, in part, an educational institution (including proprietary institutions of higher education and postsecondary vocational institutions) in any State that is legally authorized within the State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education.

The previously vacated regulations under §600.9(c) had provided that, if an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located, or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution would be required to meet any State requirements in order to legally offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State.  Furthermore, an institution was required to be able to provide, upon request, documentation of the State’s approval for the distance or correspondence education to the Secretary.

Proposed §600.9(c)(1) provides the conditions under which an institution is considered to be legally authorized by a State to offer any postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which the institution is not physically located or otherwise subject to State jurisdiction.  An institution is considered to be legally authorized by a State if (1) the State has a process to review and appropriately act in a timely manner on complaints about the institution where the final authority to resolve complaints and enforce applicable State law is with the State; and (2) the institution is legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education in at least one of three ways:  State-by-State, under a State-to-State agreement, or under a State authorization reciprocity agreement.

Proposed §600.9(c)(2) requires an institution approved  under a State-to-State agreement to notify students  in writing and by prominently posting on its website that it participates in a State-to-State agreement as well as the student complaint process available to the student.  Proposed §600.9(c)(3) requires an institution approved under a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity to notify students  in writing and by prominently posting on its website that it participates in a State authorization reciprocity agreement as well as the student complaint process available to the student.

Proposed §600.9(c)(4) provides that an institution that solely provides distance education must be also authorized in the institution’s home State.  Proposed §600.9(c)(5) provides that an institution authorized under §600.9(a) or (b) is considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education to students physically located in that State.  Proposed §600.9(c)(6) requires an institution to document its State approval or license to the Secretary upon request.

Proposed §600.9(c)(7) provides that institutions exempted from State approval of distance or correspondence education occurring in that State based on accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption would not be considered to be legally authorized.  Proposed §600.9(c)(8) provides that an institution authorized by name to offer distance or correspondence education beyond secondary education by the Federal Government, or under certain conditions, an Indian tribe, is considered to be legally authorized.  Proposed §600.9(c)(9) provides the conditions under which a religious institution that is exempted from State authorization due to an exemption for religious institutions under that State’s law is considered to be legally authorized.

Proposed §600.9(c)(10) provides that an institution that loses its State approval to provide distance or correspondence education in a State becomes ineligible to disburse Federal student aid to distance or correspondence education students in that State, and it would require the institution to provide notice of the loss of eligibility to students and on the institution’s Web site.  Lastly, proposed §600.9(c)(11) sets forth requirements for the case in which a non-State entity administering a State authorization reciprocity agreement ceases to operate.

 

Change:

600.9  State authorization.

*  *  *  *  *

(c)  State authorization of distance or correspondence education providers.  (1)  Subject to paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) of this section, an institution described under §§600.4, 600.5, and 600.6 that offers any postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which the institution is not physically located, or in which the institution is not otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, is considered to be legally authorized in that State if–

(i)  The State has a process to review and appropriately act in a timely manner on complaints concerning the institution, including enforcing applicable State law, and has the final authority to resolve complaints and enforce applicable State law; and

(ii)  The institution meets State requirements that it be approved or licensed by name–

(A)  By the State to offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, in that State;

(B)  To offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, in that State under a State-to-State agreement administered by the participating States; or

(C)  To offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education, including programs leading to a degree or certificate, by a State that approves and annually reviews the implementation of a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity; and

(2)  An institution described under paragraph(c)(1)(ii)(B) of this section must inform current and prospective students in writing and by prominently posting on the institution’s website that–

(i)  The institution is participating in a State-to-State agreement; and

(ii)  If the student is not satisfied with the result of the student complaint process provided for under the State-to-State agreement, the student may utilize the student complaint process for distance or correspondence education providers in the State in which the student legally resides.

(3)  An institution described in paragraph(c)(1)(ii)(C) of this section must inform current and prospective students in writing and by prominently posting on the institution’s website that–

(i)  The institution is participating in a State authorization reciprocity agreement administered by a non-State entity; and

(ii)  If the student is not satisfied with the result of the student complaint process provided for under the State authorization reciprocity agreement, the student may utilize the student complaint process for distance or correspondence education providers in the State in which the student legally resides.

(4)(i)  An institution described under §§600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 that solely provides distance education must additionally demonstrate that it is legally authorized to operate in its home State consistent with paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section.  For purposes of this section, the institution’s home State is the State in which the institution’s principal office is physically located.

(ii)  If such an institution changes the State in which its principal office is physically located, the new State in which the institution physically locates its principal office becomes the institution’s home State.  The institution must provide the Secretary with documentation demonstrating that it is legally authorized in its new home State under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section to be considered an eligible institution.

(5)  An institution described under §§600.4, 600.5, or 600.6 that meets the requirements under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section for a State in which the institution is physically located is considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education to students physically located in that State. 

(6)  An institution must provide documentation of each applicable State approval or license to the Secretary upon request.

(7)  An institution is not considered to be legally authorized to offer postsecondary distance or correspondence education in a State if it is exempt from State approval or licensure requirements based on accreditation, years in operation, or other comparable exemption.

(8)  The Secretary considers an institution to meet the provisions of paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(5) of this section if the institution is authorized by name to offer distance or correspondence education beyond secondary education by–

(i)  The Federal Government; or

(ii)  As defined in 25 U.S.C. §1802(2), an Indian tribe, with respect to students who legally reside on tribal lands, if the tribal government has a process to review and appropriately act on complaints concerning an institution and enforces applicable tribal requirements or laws.

(9)(i)  Notwithstanding paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(4), and (c)(5) of this section, an institution is considered to be legally authorized to operate educational programs beyond secondary education in a State if it is exempt from State authorization as a religious institution under that State’s constitution or State law.

(ii)  For purposes of this paragraph (c)(9)(i), a religious institution is an institution that meets the requirements of  paragraph (b)(2) of this section.

(10)  An institution described under paragraph (c)(1) or (c)(5) of this section that loses its State approval to offer distance or correspondence education is considered to be an ineligible institution in that State and must immediately inform current and prospective students in writing that it is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in distance or correspondence education in that State because the institution is no longer considered to be legally authorized by that State.  This information must also be immediately posted prominently on the institution’s website.

(11)(i)  If an institution was considered to be legally authorized to offer distance or correspondence education by a State under paragraph (c)(1)(ii)(C) of this section and the non-State entity administering the State authorization reciprocity agreement ceases to operate, the institution is considered an ineligible institution in that State and must immediately inform current and prospective students in writing that it is prohibited from disbursing Federal student aid to students participating in distance or correspondence education because the institution is no longer considered to be legally authorized by the State.  This information must also be immediately posted prominently on the institution’s website.

(ii)  Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(11)(i) of this section, the Secretary considers an institution to remain legally authorized in that State for such additional time as the Secretary determines to be reasonable based on ongoing review of documentation submitted by the institution of steps taken and to be taken by the institution and the State to enable the institution to meet the requirements of paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(4), and (c)(5) of this section, as applicable.

= = = = = = = = = =

As always, regardless of what the U.S. Department of Education does, states still expect you to follow their laws.  Those laws were not vacated.

Thank you!!

Russ Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu

If you like our work, join WCET!

Clearing Misconceptions in Distance Ed Enrollments by Sector: IPEDS Reality Check

March 19, 2014

Let’s play a game.  What percentage of all distance education enrollments occur in for-profit institutions?  In private, non-profits?  In public institutions?  Hold onto your guesses as we’ll get to the answers later in this blog post.

The U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS survey gives us an interesting snapshot of distance education adoption patterns by sector in Fall 2012.  In this blog post we break down the numbers by sector (public, non-profit, for-profit) and by level (2-year and 4-year) of institution.

Phil Hill of the e-Literate blog previously posted his insights on sector-specific data, with details on graduate and undergraduate differences. He also did a great job of explaining the methodology used to combine data fields from the IPEDS data so that it can be appropriately compared to the Babson reports. We are very appreciative of this work and did our best to replicate his methodology.

Distance Education:  Not Just for For-Profits Any More (of Course It Never Was)Blackboard with childish scrawl reading 1+1=3
The first major finding is that private for-profit Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have not taken over the world. We jest, a little.

It is surprising how many times people conflate distance (or online) education with for-profit institutions.  Often these are people who should know better, whether in Congress, the press, research universities, or other higher education pundits.  Certainly, the for-profits have had a huge impact on the distance education world, but maintaining unfounded perceptions does not inform policy or practice.  Some examples:

  • Scene 1:  A fiscal analyst calls Russ Poulin saying that he is glad to see an article in the higher education press about public and non-profit institutions finally starting to get into distance education.  Russ asked him if he knew that the majority of enrollments in distance education were in public and non-profit institutions. The analyst would not believe it at all.  Heavy sigh.
  • Scene 2:  At the opening press conference for one of the big-name MOOC providers, a member of the press asked if the MOOC leaders had sought advice from others already involved in distance education. One of the MOOC leaders responded that they saw no reason to consult with for-profit institutions.  Did we mention this was someone from a research university? First, the leader thought that distance education equated with for-profit institutions.  Second, even if only for-profits were involved, wouldn’t you want to learn from those with experience?  Double sigh.

Courtesy of the IPEDS Fall Enrollment 2012 survey, it is good to have facts to understand better the state of distance education.

For Fully Distance Students, Just Over One-Third Enroll in For-profit Institutions
As seen in Table 1 below, countering the argument that distance education is synonymous with for-profit education, only a third (35%) of fully distance students attended colleges in that sector.  Close to half (47%) of students taking all of their courses at distance did so at public institutions.

Table 1:  Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education by Mode of Delivery

Total Enrollments

Sector Enrollment as % of Total Enrollments

Students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses (percentage of all students taking all DE courses)

Students enrolled in some but not all distance education courses (percentage of all students taking some DE courses)

Public

15,085,798

71.4%

1,251,398

47.2%

2,409,595

84.8%

Private, Non-Profit

4,118,688

19.5%

473,941

17.9%

291,144

10.2%

Private, For-Profit

1,932,857

9.1%

928,087

35.0%

141,870

5.0%

Totals

21,137,343

 

 

2,653,426

2,842,609

Mixing Distance and Traditional Courses Much More Popular at Public Colleges
In reviewing the numbers for students who took both distance and face-to-face courses, the differences are quite remarkable.  Public institutions had more than two million students who participated in both modes of delivery.  Five-of-six (85%) of all students who enrolled in some (but not all) distance courses attended public institutions. Ten percent of private institution students and 5% of for-profit students took both face-to-face and distance courses.

 

Fully Distance Students are Nearly Half of For-Profit Enrollments; Around 10% for Other Sectors
There are large differences in fully online adoption within each sector. Most striking is the fact that 48% (see Table 2 below) of all student enrollments in for-profit institutions were enrolled exclusively in Distance Education (DE) courses.

Table 2:  Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education Within Each Sector

Total Enrollments

Sector Enrollment as % of Total Enrollments

Students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses (percentage of students in their college’s sector)

Students enrolled in some but not all distance education courses
(percentage of students in their college’s sector)

Public

15,085,798

71.4%

1,251,398

8.3%

2,409,595

16.0%

Private, Non-Profit

4,118,688

19.5%

473,941

11.5%

291,144

7.1%

Private, For-Profit

1,932,857

9.1%

928,087

48.0%

141,870

7.3%

Totals

21,137,343

 

 

2,653,426

12.6%

2,842,609

13.4%

Public institutions are still responsible for the lion’s share of overall higher education enrollments with 71% of all students in Fall 2012.  Only 8% of their enrollments were exclusively in DE courses. While private, non-profits represent twice as many student enrollments as their for-profit counterparts, only 11.5% of their students are in fully DE courses. Overall, 13% of student enrollment in the Fall of 2012 were in exclusively DE courses.

One-in-Six Public Students Mix DE and Traditional Courses; Fewer in Other Sectors
The table also shows adoption of DE courses by sector for students who are taking some, but not all of their courses at a distance. Overall 13% of students took a mixture of face-to-face and distance courses. Again there are great difference among sectors: Public institutions lead with 16% and private for-profit and non-profit reporting 7% each.

Overall, a Quarter of All Students Took at Least One Distance Course
These numbers hint at the growth in DE offerings in all sectors since the advent of online course offerings nearly 20 years ago. While we do not have data to show how this proportion has grown to date, we will be able to track these adoption trends going forward.  As reported in the first blog in the series U.S. Distance Education Adoption by the Numbers: an IPEDS Reality Check, when combining the counts of students who took all their courses at a distance and those who enrolled in some distance courses, one-in-four (26%) are engaged in DE courses.

Two-thirds of Students Enrolled in At Least One Distance Course Are at a Public Institution
Given the large number of public institutions, it is not surprising that the bulk of students taking at least one online course are enrolled in that sector. For-profit colleges account for only one-in-five students taking at least one distance course.  For non-profits and for-profits, the majority of their distance students are enrolled fully online, while public students tend to mix their enrollments with traditional courses.

Table 3: Enrollment in At Least One Distance Course  by Sector

Students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses

Students enrolled in some but not all distance education courses

Students enrolled in at least one distance education course (sum of prior two columns)

Percentage of all students enrolled in at least one distance education course

Public

1,251,398

2,409,595

3,660,993

66.6%

Private, Non-Profit

473,941

291,144

765,085

13.9%

Private, For-Profit

928,087

141,870

1,069,957

19.5%

Totals

2,653,426

2,842,609

5,496,035

 

 

Subdividing the Sectors by Degree Level
Deeper analysis of the sectors, looking more closely at the data for 2-year and 4-year institutions reveals clearly that adoption in exclusively DE courses is highest, by far, among private, for-profit 4-year institutions at 61%, while their for-profit counterparts at the 2-year level report just 4.9% of enrollments in exclusively DE courses. Public institutions at the 4-year and above level report 7% exclusively online enrollments, public 2-year schools at 10% and public, less than 2-year institutions report only 0.5% fully online.

Table 4:  Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education by Sub-sector

Students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses

Students enrolled in some but not all distance education courses

Public, 4-year or above

576,615

7.1%

1,225,364

15.0%

Private, Non-Profit, 4-year and above

473,133

11.6%

288,904

7.1%

Private, For-Profit, 4-year and above

906,376

61.0%

122,083

8.2%

Public, 2-year

674,491

9.8%

1,183,566

17.3%

Private, non-profit, 2-year

808

1.7%

2,240

4.6%

Private, for-profit, 2-year

21,711

4.9%

19,787

4.4%

Public, less-than 2-year

292

0.5%

665

1.1%

 Totals

2,653,426

12.6%

2,842,609

13.4%

In Looking at Sectors:  Where Are the Students?
Of interest is determining where the students being served by these IHEs call home. Predictably, a large proportion of students served by public institutions are within the borders of the college’s state.  This is true even for those enrolled exclusively in DE courses: 91% for public, 2-year IHEs and 39% for public, 4-year colleges. While the number of public, less than 2-year colleges is small, 100% of their exclusively DE students are in the same state as the schools serving them.

Private, for-profit institutions have a much broader reach with the exclusively DE programs. Private, for-profit 4-year IHEs report 84% of their exclusively DE enrollments are from out-of-state and for-profit 2-year schools are close behind at 73%. Private, non-profits also report significantly higher proportion of out-of-state exclusively online enrollments at 54% for 4-year or above and 39% for 2-year schools.

Table 5:  Out-of-State Distance Education Enrollments by Sub-sector

 

 

 

Students Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses

 

 Sector

# IHEs in Sector

 Number of
enrollments exclusively in DE courses

% of Total enrollment

 % enrolled in same state as IHE

 % enrolled not in same state as IHE

% enrolled located outside U.S.

% enrolled in U.S., state unknown

% enrolled student location unknown/ not reported

Total Enrollment—by Sector
Public, 4-year or above

711

576,615

7.1%

73%

20%

2%

1%

4%

8,165,119

Private, Non-Profit, 4-year and above

1,662

473,133

11.6%

39%

54%

2%

2%

3%

4,069,937

Private, For-Profit, 4-year and above

798

906,376

61.0%

13%

84%

1%

1%

1%

1,485,692

Public, 2-year

1,061

674,491

9.8%

91%

5%

1%

2%

1%

6,858,541

Private, non-profit, 2-year

192

808

1.7%

61%

39%

0%

0%

0%

48,751

Private, for-profit, 2-year

1,078

21,711

4.9%

26%

73%

0%

0%

0%

447,165

Public, less-than 2-year

268

292

0.5%

100%

0%

0%

0%

0%

62,138

Totals

5,770

2,653,426

12.6%

50.6%

44.6%

1.3%

1.4%

2.1%

21,137,343

As noted in the blog post, Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check, many institutions report serving students who reside outside of the U.S. In this data, both public 4-year and private 4-year schools each report that 2% of their exclusively DE students are residing outside the U.S. IPEDS did not capture the exact location of these learners. These students may be military stationed elsewhere, U.S. nationals located in other countries, or foreign nationals. While the percentage is small, students located in other countries represent potential issues including language, culture, and providing support services. There are also policy implications related to serving international students.

Enrollments reported as fully DE where the state where the student is located is unknown or not reported are relatively small. Though the fact that some institutions simply did not report the student location suggests potential issues with state authorization compliance.

While evaluating this data, we need to continue to remember that all of this segmentation is reported for just the 13% of student enrollments reported as exclusively DE in Fall 2012 IPEDS data. It is a starting place, reveals interesting differences between the sectors, and allows us to benchmark the current state. As new data is reported by IPEDS, we will be able to track the changes in fully online adoption as the market continues to develop and mature.

Methodology and Definitions
For this analysis, we used the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Enrollment survey which includes counts of students taking Distance Education courses in Fall 2012. To identify the IHEs, we used the seven sector data fields, which resulted in 5,770 institutions of higher education in the U.S. This is a larger data set than used in previous blog posts and this data set does not match the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG)/Sloan-C/Pearson survey, which is based on 4,726 institutions. Total students enrollments were reported as 21,137,343 in this study. We also modeled the methodology used by Phil Hill in his e-Literate blogs on IPED data by combining the data fields, “enrolled exclusively in DE courses” and “enrolled in some but not all DE courses” to match the Babson category “enrolled in at least one online course”.

Recent WCET Frontiers IPEDS blog posts use the degree-granting institution field that represent 4,726 institutions. As in prior blogs about the IPEDS DE data, we will use the term distance education and abbreviate it DE, as IPEDS does. The term online courses may be more descriptive and the terms are often used interchangeably, but to be consistent with how the data was collected and reported, we use Distance Education. It is important to remember that this reporting represents a combination of graduate and undergraduate DE courses, which may obscure much stronger adoption of fully online graduate programs.

Final Comments
How did you fare in guessing the percentages in each sector?

Even before publishing this piece, we can anticipate that some readers will be upset that we are promoting, condemning, or ignoring one or more higher education sectors.  That was not our intent.   Our plan is to promote discussion, analysis, and policy-making based on the best data available.

On that last issue (“best data available”), we have been contacted with questions about the IPEDS definitions and data.  We are researching them and some of these questions could have serious implications.  In an upcoming blog post, we may address some of those questions or raise more questions.Photo of Terri Straut

Terri Straut
Ascension Consulting
terri_straut@msn.com

Russ Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.eduPhoto of Russ Poulin with baseball bat

Photo Credit:  Morgue File.

If you like our work, join WCET!

Colleges Crossing Borders – Counts and State Authorization: IPEDS Reality Check

March 11, 2014

This is the third in a series of blog posts examining data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS survey on distance education (DE) enrollments. Our first blog post in this series looked at students enrolled exclusively or partially in distance education courses.  Our second reviewed the geographic location of the students.  What about the number of institutions serving students out-of-state and the policy implications? Thank you Terri Straut for the data analysis. 

In thinking about how the IPEDS data and authorization issues, I added my thoughts on how this data intersects with the policy implications of the authorization debate at both the state and federal levels. I was selected as one of the negotiators in the current round of Negotiated Rulemaking for the Department of Education.  State Authorization for distance education is one of the issues we are reviewing.  In this post, issues are raised that I’ve heard both from negotiators and higher education community, at large.  I’m hoping that data will help to inform decisions, but I’m weird that way.
Russ Poulin

The Fall 2012 IPEDS data give us an opportunity to understand the magnitude of the state authorization compliance issue. One component of the WCET analysis of the IPEDS data is to identify how many institutions in the U.S enroll students exclusively in DE who reside outside of the institution’s home state or outside the U.S.  IPEDS did not ask in which states those students are enrolled.

Wall of signs from many cities

Institutions are supposed to know where their students are located. Do they?

Institutions Reporting Students Outside Their State or Outside the U.S.
All 50 states report some out-of-state enrollments in exclusively DE courses. Some of these institutions have thousands of out-of-state students, while some just have a handful, but the need for state authorization in all states usually remains the same regardless of the number of students enrolled in a given state.

Every state has institutions that report having students who are exclusively enrolled in DE courses and are located either outside the state of the IHE or outside the U.S. There were 2,129 institutions, 45% of the total of all degree-granting institutions, who reported serving exclusively DE students residing outside of their state. In addition, 940 institutions (20%) report having international students enrolled in exclusively DE courses.

State

State Total of IHEs reporting students who are exclusively DE & OUTSIDE their state

State Total of IHEs reporting students who are exclusively DE & OUTSIDE the U.S.

AK

7

4

AL

40

8

AR

33

8

AZ

45

15

CA

115

125

CO

49

25

CT

27

9

DC

11

6

DE

8

0

FL

87

35

GA

66

23

HI

14

9

IA

43

14

ID

8

6

IL

92

44

IN

42

20

KS

44

18

KY

47

15

LA

25

8

MA

61

27

MD

39

19

ME

13

9

MI

64

28

MN

74

18

MO

68

28

MS

27

7

MT

12

6

NC

68

24

ND

14

10

NE

25

15

NH

17

4

NJ

35

11

NM

25

10

NV

11

4

NY

110

57

OH

87

25

OK

43

24

OR

36

18

PA

98

42

RI

7

3

SC

33

16

SD

19

7

TN

40

13

TX

114

54

UT

21

5

VA

57

36

VT

11

6

WA

22

5

WI

44

9

WV

23

5

WY

8

3

Total # IHEs reporting

2,129

940

The counts include only those institutions that enrolled at least one student who met the following two criteria in Fall 2012: a) he or she was taking all of her or his courses at a distance; b) the student was out-of-state or out-of-country.   These numbers are not cumulative across a row as the institutions that are enrolling students outside the country are often a subset of those that enroll students outside their own state.

States with Large and Small Numbers of Institutions Serving Out-of-state Institutions
State analysis indicates that larger states with higher numbers of IHEs are more likely to have numerous institutions who report out-of-state enrollment. California 115, Texas 114, and New York 100 have the most number of institutions who report exclusively DE enrollments where the student is known to be located out-of-state.  Predictably, smaller states with fewer IHEs report fewer institutions with known out-of-state students, Alaska and Rhode Island both report 7 schools, but that is nearly all of the institutions in their states.

State Authorization Policy Implications
It is clear that there are a great number of institutions that should be seeking state authorization in the states where they serve students, if they have not already done so.  Since the survey did not ask about the specific states in which their students resided, it is impossible to determine from the IPEDS data how many institutions may or may not be in compliance.

There are some policy implications, especially as the U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Team is considering the return of the federal state authorization regulation:

  • A large number of institutions are involved in cross-border distance education.  2,129 institutions (or nearly 45% of all IHEs) enroll students outside of their home state.  When the federal regulation was introduced in October 2010, Department representatives thought that only a small number of institutions would need to seek authority.   Similarly, many state regulators are “overwhelmed” by stacks of 400-500 letters that they have received. There could be many more coming.
  • There still are a large number of institutions out-of-compliance.  In an on-going series of surveys that WCET has conducted with UPCEA, respondents are asked about their progress in addressing state authorization requirements.  In 2013, about 15% were in full compliance.  In the (yet to be released) 2014 results, the number in compliance grew by almost 10%, but there are still about one-in-five institutions that have not submitted a single application.  It is suspected that those out-of-compliance tended not to complete the survey. If that is true, applying those percentages to the 2,129 institutions offering DE outside their boundaries makes for a large number of institutions still needing (or possibly needing) to comply.
  • There is still much resistance to the notion of state authorization.  Both institutional deeds (in not complying) and in words (in being vocal about not wanting state authorization) show that there is opposition to a federal regulation returning.  We have heard institutional personnel claim that it is their constitutional right to serve students anywhere and that consumer protection regulations outside of authorization will protect students.  Consumer protection advocates point to the removal of state authorization as the removal of a necessary tool for students to combat unfair practices by powerful universities.
  • The timeline for compliance could be difficult to set.  If the federal regulation were to return, setting a compliance timeline will be tricky.  Those for a short timeline claim that institutions have known about the requirements and should have been seeking approvals.  Those asking for a longer timeline cite the larger number of institutions still out of compliance and the inability of states to handle a large number of applications in what they might consider.
  • The state regulations are still in place.  Until the courts were to rule otherwise, the state regulations have been and still are in place. There is no current court challenge of state sovereignty over distance education. If there were, it could take awhile to be resolved.  Meanwhile, states still expect institutions to be in compliance with their laws.

Institutions Serving Students Internationally
The issue of international student enrollments in exclusively DE programs is also evident from the data reported. There is no data about where these students are in the world in the current data reported.

Our analysis reveals that 940 institutions reported having students from outside the U.S. exclusively in DE courses. The same three states lead, California 125, New York 57, and Texas with 54 institutions reporting serving students from out of the U.S. in exclusively DE courses.  It is interesting to note that California is the only state that reports more institutions serving students outside the country than in other U.S. states.  In looking at border states, some states (i.e., North Dakota at 14 out-of-state and 10 out-of-country) have a larger percentage of their institutions also serving students in other countries.  While Arizona has many institutions serving students in other states, only about one-third of that total amount serve students in other countries.

State Authorization Policy Implications of International Students
It is clear that institutions who serve international students need to have clear policies, procedures, and services in place for those students.  Those institutions also need to be aware of restrictions of serving students in other countries imposed by those countries or by U.S. laws.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Team is considering a state authorization regulation regarding U.S. students in foreign locations. The first meeting of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee limited that issue to U.S. institutions having stand-alone campuses or locations in other countries.  It excluded partnerships with foreign institutions and distance education in other countries.  If the rulemaking expands to include a question about who authorizes the ability of an institution to serve U.S. citizens in other countries, then the scope of this possible regulation expands greatly.  As of today, there is no sign that this expansion will occur.

Conclusion
The new IPEDS data reveals interesting information about the current state of distance education in the U.S. Analysis of the available IPEDS data elicits questions that cannot be answered by the data provided at this time. Longitudinal analysis at the institutional level may also reveal interesting trends. This data represents an important benchmark for institutional leaders responsible for compliance; regulators and policy-makers who are working to create a more manageable state authorization processes. It will be interesting to track the growth of this industry with comprehensive data over time.Photo of Terri Straut

Terri Straut
Ascension Consulting
terri_straut@msn.com

Russ PoulinPhoto of Russ Poulin with baseball bat
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu

Photo Credit:  Morgue File.

If you like our work, join WCET!

Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check

This is the second in a series of blog posts examining data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS survey on distance education enrollments. Our first blog post in this series looked at the percentage of students enrolled exclusively in distance education or taking at least one distance education course.  What about the location of students?
Russ Poulin

There has been much discussion about the population of students studying online at U.S. institutions of higher education. State authorization compliance is known to be an issue, but until there was data to support the claims that institutions were serving students beyond their state borders, no one knew how many students and institutions were affected. We now have data that begins to bring the current situation into focus.

Photo of the Earth focusing on North and South America

Where in the world are our distance education students?

Location of DE Students
The Fall 2012 IPEDS data gives us our first national view of where the DE students served are located in relation to the schools that are serving them. The issue of enrolling students from out-of-state and out-of-country is an important topic for all institutions concerned about state authorization compliance. This data gives us our first look at the magnitude of this challenge.

It is noteworthy that all of the data reported on the location of students is for “students enrolled exclusively in DE courses” only.  And those enrolled “exclusively in DE courses” represents about 13% of all enrollments and only half of all DE enrollments reported.

Since students who participate in a combination of on-campus and DE courses are probably physically located near the campus, it is a reasonable assumption that data for these students would not change the national snapshot. But since they do represent half of the DE students, the fact that we don’t have data on half of the population is important to recognize. It is also likely true that as students choice of how they will take their courses change from semester to semester, they could be counted in one semester and not in another. These numbers will be interesting to track over time.

Nevertheless, it gives us an important glimpse into the potential size of the challenges facing institutions who need to come into state authorization compliance.  It also gives insight into the scope of the number of institutions and students involved in cross-border transactions for policymakers and regulators who are creating the systems and monitoring the activities of IHE’s.

Students Enrolled Exclusively Online and Students’ Location


All Degree-granting Institutions

 

Students Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses

 

 State

Number of
enrollments exclusively in DE courses

% of Total enrollment

 % enrolled in same state as IHE

% enrolled not in same state as IHE

 % enrolled located outside U.S.

% enrolled in U.S., state unknown

% enrolled student location unknown/ not reported

Total Enrollment—All Degree-Granting IHEs in U.S.

AK

              5,553

17%

91%

8%

1%

0%

0%

           32,797

AL

            50,008

16%

44%

53%

2%

0%

1%

         310,311

AR

            16,700

9%

85%

12%

1%

0%

2%

         176,458

AZ

          360,189

49%

17%

81%

1%

1%

0%

         736,379

CA

          170,347

6%

83%

14%

1%

1%

1%

      2,621,460

CO

            72,801

20%

41%

56%

1%

1%

1%

         367,055

CT

            14,701

7%

54%

46%

0%

0%

0%

         202,625

DC

              7,496

8%

5%

92%

1%

2%

0%

           90,150

DE

              4,010

7%

58%

38%

0%

0%

3%

           58,128

FL

          194,066

17%

43%

43%

1%

0%

13%

      1,154,929

GA

            53,428

10%

70%

28%

1%

0%

1%

         545,358

HI

              8,736

11%

85%

9%

5%

1%

0%

           78,456

IA

          144,223

40%

13%

85%

1%

0%

1%

         361,183

ID

            13,848

13%

42%

12%

4%

40%

2%

         108,008

IL

            90,053

10%

40%

56%

1%

0%

3%

         867,110

IN

            50,893

11%

67%

31%

1%

0%

1%

         447,262

KS

            33,339

16%

65%

23%

12%

0%

0%

         213,786

KY

            56,067

20%

86%

12%

0%

0%

2%

         282,125

LA

            11,037

4%

85%

15%

0%

0%

0%

         258,825

MA

            30,516

6%

57%

38%

2%

0%

3%

         516,331

MD

            55,786

15%

80%

19%

1%

0%

0%

         379,032

ME

            10,053

14%

62%

35%

2%

0%

0%

           72,810

MI

            48,766

7%

79%

17%

1%

0%

3%

         663,825

MN

          119,366

26%

25%

72%

3%

0%

0%

         451,661

MO

            54,859

12%

50%

47%

1%

1%

2%

         441,371

MS

            16,371

9%

86%

13%

1%

0%

0%

         176,665

MT

              3,410

6%

84%

15%

1%

0%

0%

           53,254

NC

            66,558

12%

91%

6%

1%

0%

2%

         578,031

ND

            12,718

23%

62%

37%

1%

0%

0%

           55,169

NE

            23,826

17%

63%

34%

0%

2%

0%

         139,578

NH

            14,812

18%

36%

62%

1%

0%

1%

           82,678

NJ

            34,421

8%

60%

35%

1%

4%

0%

         439,965

NM

            20,357

13%

81%

19%

0%

0%

0%

         156,424

NV

            12,038

10%

90%

7%

0%

3%

0%

         118,300

NY

            82,408

6%

47%

50%

2%

1%

0%

      1,315,590

OH

            70,404

10%

78%

21%

0%

1%

0%

         709,818

OK

            26,253

11%

72%

25%

1%

2%

0%

         228,464

OR

            22,948

9%

71%

26%

1%

0%

3%

         254,695

PA

            62,517

8%

58%

40%

1%

0%

0%

         777,242

RI

              1,347

2%

59%

38%

3%

0%

0%

           83,952

SC

            15,598

6%

91%

8%

1%

0%

0%

         259,617

SD

            11,803

21%

72%

28%

0%

0%

0%

           56,058

TN

            21,279

6%

83%

17%

0%

0%

0%

         343,641

TX

          139,714

9%

90%

7%

2%

0%

1%

      1,540,298

UT

            62,026

23%

25%

74%

0%

0%

0%

         267,309

VA

          109,927

19%

45%

52%

2%

1%

0%

         588,696

VT

              4,507

10%

53%

39%

2%

0%

5%

           44,703

WA

            27,848

8%

30%

7%

0%

62%

0%

         365,514

WI

            28,398

8%

49%

12%

1%

0%

38%

         369,732

WV

            66,096

41%

10%

83%

3%

3%

0%

         162,179

WY

              4,228

11%

83%

17%

0%

0%

0%

           37,812

Total %

51%

45%

1%

1%

2%

Enrollment Totals

2,638,653

1,336,873

1,176,009

33,561

36,779

55,431

20,642,819

In interpreting the data, the percentage is of all students enrolled in institutions located in that state, NOT of all students resident in that state.  Take Arizona as an example.  The 49% of student who are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses” takes into account the large number of students that are enrolled at institutions (i.e., Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix) that are headquartered in that state, but enroll students from a broad geographic region.  It does NOT mean that 49% of higher education students resident in the state of Arizona are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses.”

Students in Other States
Of students enrolled exclusively in DE courses, overall half (51%) were reported to be in the same state as the institution (1,336,873 students), 45% (1,176,009 students) were reported to be not in the same state as the institution and 1% (33,561) were reported to be located outside of the U.S. In addition, the IPEDS data has two additional categories “located in U.S.; state unknown” at 1% and “location of student unknown/not reported” at 2%.

Reviewing the location of students by state, we see that most IHEs predominantly service in-state students with their exclusively DE programs. Exceptions, based on the IPEDS data provided, include Iowa 85%, West Virginia 83%, and Arizona 81% of enrollments are out-of-state.

These states all have large institutions that provide online programs. A few examples are provided below.

  • Iowa is home to Ashford University, with over 76,722 exclusively DE student enrollments and Kaplan University with over 46,000 exclusively DE enrollments across their Iowa campuses.
  • American Public University System reports 58,115 exclusively DE student enrollments in West Virginia.
  • Arizona has many institutions engaged in fully online offerings.
    • University of Phoenix-Online Campus reports 250,600 exclusively DE enrollments.
    • Grand Canyon University reported 28,417 exclusively DE, which is 58% of their enrollments.
    • Argosy University-Phoenix Online Division had 10,715 exclusively DE student enrollments in fall, 2012.
    • The public schools in Arizona also report large proportions of learners fully at a distance. Rio Salado College reported 16,235 fully DE student enrollments, 67% of total enrollments.
    • Arizona State reported 7,444 exclusively DE enrollment, about 10% of their total enrollments.

In addition, the District of Columbia reports that 92% of exclusively DE students are from outside the district, however the geography of the region likely explains this anomaly.

In Which State is the Student Located?
The current data does not tell us where these students are located in relation to the IHE.  The question asked was if the student was in another state or country.  Institutions were not asked to identify the exact location of the student.

Without that data it is impossible to tell whether students are clustered in close proximity to the state the IHE is located or if the college has a broad national reach.  The data does not help us to determine if an institution is serving students in a state in which it does not have authorization.

Students in Other Countries
Kansas leads with the highest total number of exclusively DE students who are known to be located outside the US, with 4,001 students reported, 12% of their exclusively DE populations. Fort Hays State University accounts for 90% of those enrollment, with 3,609 international students.

About 10 states report having upwards of 1,000 exclusively DE students who are known to live outside the borders of the U.S. In total, 33,561 international students were reported as being enrolled exclusively in DE courses, about 1% of the population. Since the survey did not ask, it is not clear what percentage of these students are military stationed elsewhere, other U.S. nationals located in other countries, or foreign nationals.  While the percentage is small, students located in other countries do represent possible issues including language, culture, providing support services, and in policy considerations for the institutions serving them.

Students Whose Location is Unknown or Not Reported
Only about 1% of students were reported as residing in the U.S., but the state was unknown.  A couple of states have much larger proportions of learners where the state is reported as unknown. Washington, for example, reported 62% of exclusively DE learners as out-of-state, but the state is unknown and Idaho reported 40%.

The last data field reports exclusively DE students for whom the location of the student is unknown or not reported by the IHE. Most states report a very small proportion of learners in this category. But in total there are over 55,000 learners whose locations is reported in this unknown category. The states with particularly high reporting of unknowns are Wisconsin at 38% (the University of Wisconsin System institutions do not report where their students are located) and Florida at 13%.  Some institutions or university systems report not knowing the location of any of their out-of-state students, implying that they are systematically avoiding the first step in state authorization compliance.

The new IPEDS data illuminates the work ahead to ensure full compliance with state regulations. Trend data over time will help determine whether out-of-state and out-of-country enrollments are increasing.

As a nation, nearly half of our enrollments that are exclusively in DE are students outside of the state of the IHE.

Some institutions simply did not report the student location data, rather they reported all exclusively DE enrollments as “location of student unknown/not reported”. If institutions are truly unaware of where their students are located, the likelihood of full compliance is extremely low.Photo of Terri Straut

In our next blog post, we will look at the numbers of institutions (by state) that are enrolling students outside their state and outside the country.

Terri Straut
Ascension Consulting
terri_straut@msn.com

Photo credit: Morgue File.

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U.S. Distance Education Adoption by the Numbers: an IPEDS Reality Check

This is the first of a series of posts providing insight on data regarding enrollments in distance education that was released by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year.  Terri Straut crunched the data for WCET.  Terri has a deep knowledge of the distance education world and we appreciate her thorough analysis. As noted below, Phil Hill of the e-Literate blog has published several articles on this issue.  We communicated with him to make sure that our work was complementary with his and followed the same methodology.
Russ Poulin, WCET

We’ve all heard the hype about online learning and how it is challenging and changing our models in higher education. As a long-time member of this industry, I was excited to dig in when new data was released in early January from the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).   For the first time in many years, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall Enrollment survey included counts of students taking Distance Education courses in Fall 2012.mix of words related to educational data

With this data, we can finally get a comprehensive, objective look at the current state of distance education adoption nationally. The new data shows that one in four (26%) students enrolled in at least one distance education course in the Fall of 2012. That’s 5.4 million student enrollments, an impressive level of adoption, but it hardly lives up to the hype that often suggests that technology is totally changing the way teaching and learning are conducted in higher education. Since the IPEDS data uses the term Distance Education (DE) that is the term we will use.

The Methodology (and Thanks to Phil Hill)
Analysis of the IPEDS data was conducted on all degree granting institutions in the U.S. This presents 4,726 institutions of higher education (IHE) in total, both 4-year and 2-year colleges. This data set matches the data set that Phil Hill, edtech author and blogger at e-Literate, has used in his recent blogs that analyze the new DE data. According to Phil, the data set also matches the historical data reported by the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG)/Sloan-C/Pearson survey. In order to approximate the same measures used by the prior survey, the data fields, “enrolled exclusively in DE courses” and “enrolled in some but not all DE courses” were combined to match the Babson category “enrolled in at least one online course”. Phil previously published the data on DE enrollments for public institutions. Huge thanks to Phil for his early analysis of the newly available data and for his collaboration with the BSRG to ensure that the two data sets can be compared appropriately. Phil has also done a fine job of illuminating the differences in the data and definitions used.

Adoption of Distance Education
In this analysis for WCET, I looked at all of the DE data fields for all degree-granting institutions in the U.S. We did not differentiate between undergraduate and graduate course enrollments in this data analysis. Data on the adoption of distance education is reported by state in the table below. States are ranked by the data field % at least one DE course to provide comparisons to previous Babson data and Phil’s analysis of public institutions published in e-Literate. Note that the % at least one DE course column is the sum of the % of exclusively DE courses and % at least one DE course columns. The data for the District of Colombia is also reported since it was reported in the IPEDS data.

Percentage of Students Taking at Least One Distance Education Course,
All Degree-granting Institutions,
By State and Ranked by Highest Percentage

 Rank

State

% exclusively DE courses

% some but not all DE courses

TABLE SORTED BY:
% at least one DE course

% no DE courses

Total Enrollments

1 AZ

49%

17%

66%

34%

 736,379

2 WV

41%

12%

52%

48%

 162,179

3 IA

40%

9%

49%

51%

 361,183

4 MN

26%

13%

39%

61%

 451,661

5 ND

23%

16%

39%

61%

 55,169

6 ID

13%

24%

37%

63%

 108,008

7 UT

23%

13%

36%

64%

 267,309

8 FL

17%

18%

35%

65%

 1,154,929

9 VA

19%

16%

35%

65%

 588,696

10 SD

21%

14%

35%

65%

 56,058

11 AL

16%

19%

35%

65%

 310,311

12 AK

17%

18%

35%

65%

 32,797

13 NC

12%

22%

33%

67%

 578,031

14 NE

17%

16%

33%

67%

 139,578

15 KY

20%

11%

31%

69%

 282,125

16 KS

16%

16%

31%

69%

 213,786

17 OK

11%

20%

31%

69%

 228,464

18 NM

13%

18%

31%

69%

 156,424

19 NV

10%

20%

30%

70%

 118,300

20 CO

20%

10%

30%

70%

 367,055

21 AR

9%

20%

29%

71%

 176,458

22 WY

11%

18%

29%

71%

 37,812

23 MO

12%

15%

28%

72%

 441,371

24 ME

14%

13%

27%

73%

 72,810

25 HI

11%

16%

27%

73%

 78,456

26 IN

11%

15%

26%

74%

 447,262

27 MD

15%

11%

26%

74%

 379,032

28 MS

9%

16%

26%

74%

 176,665

29 TX

9%

17%

26%

74%

 1,540,298

30 GA

10%

15%

25%

75%

 545,358

31 OH

10%

14%

24%

76%

 709,818

32 NH

18%

6%

24%

76%

 82,678

33 TN

6%

18%

24%

76%

 343,641

34 OR

9%

14%

23%

77%

 254,695

35 SC

6%

16%

22%

78%

 259,617

36 PA

8%

14%

22%

78%

 777,242

37 WI

8%

13%

21%

79%

 369,732

38 MT

6%

14%

21%

79%

 53,254

39 IL

10%

10%

20%

80%

 867,110

40 VT

10%

9%

19%

81%

 44,703

41 NJ

8%

11%

19%

81%

 439,965

42 WA

8%

11%

18%

82%

 365,514

43 MI

7%

11%

18%

82%

 663,825

44 CA

6%

11%

17%

83%

 2,621,460

45 DE

7%

10%

17%

83%

 58,128

46 LA

4%

12%

16%

84%

 258,825

47 NY

6%

9%

16%

84%

 1,315,590

48 CT

7%

7%

15%

85%

 202,625

49 MA

6%

8%

14%

86%

 516,331

50 RI

2%

10%

12%

88%

 83,952

51 DC 8%

3%

11%

89%

 90,150

Totals

 

13%

 

14%

 

26%

 

74%

 

 20,642,819

 

In interpreting the data, the percentage is of all students enrolled in institutions located in that state, NOT of all students resident in that state.  Take Arizona as an example.  The 49% of student who are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses” takes into account the large number of students that are enrolled at institutions (i.e., Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix) located in that state.  It does NOT mean that 49% of higher education students in the state of Arizona are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses.”

Overall, about one in four degree-seeking students (5.4 million) in the U.S. in Fall 2012 had some experience with distance education courses. Enrollment in DE courses (at least one DE course) represents 26% of all student enrollments for the period in U.S. degree-granting institutions. The definition of “at least one DE course” is admittedly a broad category, ranging from a student taking just one online course to those who have taken the majority, but not all, of their courses at a distance. But it is data that we can now track annually through IPEDS to quantify adoption and analyze trends.

A few key findings:

  • The top 10 ranked states represent nearly a third (31%) of all DE enrollments.
  • The level of student participation in at least one DE course varies significantly by state.
  • The states with the highest participation in DE courses are Arizona 66%, West Virginia 52%, and Iowa 49% of total enrollments.
  • Reporting for enrollment exclusively in DE courses reveal the same three states leading Arizona 49%, West Virginia 41% and Iowa 40% of enrollments.  Those states are the home to large distance education providers:  Arizona (Arizona State University, Argosy University-Phoenix Campus, Grand Canyon University, Rio Salado College, and the University of Phoenix), West Virginia (American Public University System), and Iowa (Ashford University and Kaplan University).
  • The states with the lowest reported participation in DE courses are Rhode Island 12%, Massachusetts 14%, and Connecticut at 15%.
  • There is a much broader spread in the category of exclusive DE enrollment, with Rhode Island representing the lowest fully DE enrollment percentage at 2%, followed by Louisiana at 4%, and several states (California, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee) at 6% of total enrollment.

While there has been a lot of focus on fully online programs, the data shows that only about 13% of degree-seeking students in the U.S. were engaged exclusively in DE programs. It is also noteworthy that 74% of all U.S. students did not have a DE component, according to the IPEDS data. However, the data reveals large differences by state.

It is also important to remember that this reporting represents a combination of graduate and undergraduate DE courses, which may obscure much stronger adoption of fully online graduate programs. In fact, Richard Garrett’s reporting in University World News indicates, “close to one-third of U.S. graduate students are currently studying exclusively or majority online.” He also provides interesting analysis regarding the market concentration of the largest wholly DE institutions.

In addition to DE adoption by state, the WCET IPEDS data analysis looked at where the DE students are located in relation to the institutions that serve them. These numbers have implications for institutions in understanding their market scope, the need to provide student support services across a wide geographic range, and the state authorization policy issue.  The next blog post will report those findings.Terri_Straut

Terri Straut
Ascension Consulting
terri_straut@msn.com

 

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