Proposal Would Expand Online Courses Across State Lines

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Students who want to take online college classes could have access to an expanded array of options under a proposal designed to make it easier for universities to offer online courses across state lines.

Representatives from 47 states are scheduled to meet in Indianapolis this week to discuss a plan to simplify a maze of state regulations that were established decades ago when most students took all of their courses at one brick-and-mortar campus.

The proposal would not apply to providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, because they are not degree-granting institutions. Nor would it affect international students.

But it could affect millions of students. Nearly one-third of all college students take at least one course online for credit, says a report on the proposal, released last week.

Currently, colleges that want to offer online courses for credit to out-of-state students must register their programs in each state and comply with each state's requirements.The report estimated the costs to meet compliance ranging from $76,100 for a public community college offering online coursework to 257 students in five states to $5.5 million for a public university system to comply with 49 states.That's not counting administrative costs.

Under the proposal, developed by a commission chaired by former Education secretary Richard Riley, existing regional higher education boards would oversee reciprocity agreements through which colleges could more easily operate distance-education programs in multiple states. Universities would agree to comply with the requirements of their home state.

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