Proposal Would Expand Online Courses Across State Lines

Tim Goral's picture

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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