This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to bring to the floor for a vote the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117), introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC). H.R. 2117 would repeal the new federal definition of credit hour and would also repeal the state authorization regulation that requires institutions that offer distance education programs to meet state requirements in every state in which they have a distance education student.
The legislation was approved by the House Education and the Workforce Committee last June. At that time, NACUBO joined a group of more than 70 higher education associations and accreditors in sending a letter to Rep. Foxx to thank her for introducing the bill. In July of 2011, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the Department of Education's state authorization rule. However, the full impact of the court's ruling remains unclear. The Department of Education's regulation had tied the eligibility of distance education programs for Title IV student aid to state licensure, but the state laws and regulations are still in force. The judge did not find that there was anything inherently wrong with the rule, but only that it was too different from the proposed rule as published to be imposed without providing an additional opportunity for comment.
NACUBO finds the state authorization regulation to be highly problematic and fully supports H.R. 2117. NACUBO members are encouraged to work with their campus presidents and government relations officers, as appropriate, to ask their delegations to support the legislation when the House of Representatives brings it up for a vote this week.