How Expensive to Get In?: Distance Learning Out-of-State Approval Costs
Broussard, Willie, Distance Learning
During my first trip to New York City, I was excited about attending one of the popular clubs I had heard about from friends. As we approached the entrance, the long line that contained other anxious partygoers astonished me. Not to be discouraged, I joined the ranks of these hopeful attendees. After a brief, yet thrilling, wait I made it to the entrance. My next surprise came when I was greeted by the hostess/cashier and informed of a cover charge of $50 to enter this establishment. Coming from a small town, I had never experienced a cover charge higher than $5. Hesitantly, I acquiesced, paid the fee to enter, and enjoyed my first nightclub experience in the Big Apple; however, for future visits to unfamiliar nightclubs, I learned to research the cover charges in advance.
Higher education institutions offering distance education are experiencing the similar aforementioned astonishment as a result of the U.S. Department of Education's State Authorization Regulation Chapter 34, C.F.R. § 600.9. It requires institutions offering distance education and correspondence courses in a state in which they are not physically located, to meet the state's requirements (State Authorization, 2010). Specifically it states,
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, (p. 66862)
In June 2011, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia struck down a portion of the state authorization regulations, but still gave states the authority to regulate distance education in their respective states (Career College Association dba Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities vs. U.S. Department of Education et al., 2011).
Online education is one of the fastest growing phenomena in higher education. With the availability of new technologies and changing learner needs, traditional universities are successfully delivering instruction to students at remote locations who would otherwise be unable to complete their studies. The success has not come without drawbacks, however. Many universities are faced with a demand for their distance education programs, which overwhelms the existing campus infrastructure.
The introduction of the World Wide Web has aided in the migration from distance learning delivery methods (correspondence, interactive, etc.) to predominantly online delivery (Calvin & Freeburg, 2010). The availability and affordability of online degree programs have grown and continue to grow exponentially, providing prospective and continuing students with a myriad of choices to complete their educational goals. Previously dominated by for-profit and private universities, online degree programs are now seeing tremendous growth, popularity, and success with public institutions. Within the adult learner population, single parent, minority, and low-income women have become the largest group among online learners (Miller, 2008).
The growth of online education has not only allowed for the diversity of the profile of learners, but also has given those learners an expanded portfolio of choices among institutions of higher learning. Online degree programs allow students to complete their educational pursuits at institutions that may originally have been inaccessible due to location, costs, etc.
The initial directive stated that noncompliance with this mandate would result in loss of Title IV finding for the institution. Educational institutions, both 2-year and 4year, profit and nonprofit, found themselves in a mad rush to identify where their distance students originated and the regulations governing approval in those states. …