On June 15, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved legislation (H.R. 2117) to repeal state authorization and credit hour provisions of the program integrity rules published by the Department of Education. The regulations are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2011.
H.R. 2117, introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), would repeal the state authorization regulation and would also prohibit the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any regulation or rule that defines the term "credit hour" for any purpose under the Higher Education Act. "Many colleges and universities find these inflexible new regulations confusing and nearly impossible to comply with," Foxx said upon introducing the legislation.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote of the full House of Representatives and it is unlikely that the Senate will take up the measure. However, it is notable that five Democrats joined 22 Republicans in supporting the bill; the vote was 27 to 11.
On June 10, 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. Regarding the state authorization requirement, the letter states:
The regulation also creates new and significant hurdles for students pursuing higher education through distance learning and places the federal government in the position of enforcing state distance education laws-a role inappropriate for it to assume.
As a practical matter, because of the inability to accurately predict or control student mobility, most institutions will need to pursue authorization in all 50 states even before knowing from which states their students may ultimately enroll. Unfortunately, state policies in this area can be highly complex, ambiguous and outdated and are often accompanied by substantial fees that may be cost-prohibitive for some public and nonprofit institutions. Indeed, due to these burdens, some colleges and universities may well determine that they will no longer offer distance education programs in certain states.
As NACUBO last reported on April 26, 2011, the state authorization regulation expands a requirement that, in order to be eligible to participate in the Title IV financial aid programs, institutions must be authorized by their state. The new regulations were published October 29, 2010 and take effect on July 1, 2011. The Department of Education also published two Dear Colleague letters to provide supplemental guidance on the state authorization regulation; the first letter, (GEN-11-05), appeared on March 17, 2011 and the second, (GEN-11-11), on April 20, 2011.
Congresswoman Foxx, and supporters of H.R. 2117 are also concerned that by establishing a definition of a credit hour, the federal government is inappropriately overreaching into academic and accrediting decisions.
While congressional lawmakers continue to seek prohibition of implementation, NACUBO urges institutions to diligently pursue compliance with the state authorization requirement.