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Trump administration officials have postponed the effective date of a 2016 Department of Education rule addressing state authorization for distance education and study abroad programs.

The state authorization rules were scheduled to take effect in July 2018 but ED announced a two-year postponement in the May 25, 2018, Federal Register. In the notice, ED states, “The Secretary proposes the delay based on concerns recently raised by regulated parties and to ensure that there is adequate time to conduct negotiated rulemaking to reconsider the final regulations, and as necessary, develop revised regulations.”

Even with the recent announcement, institutions must be in compliance with state regulations. The delay from ED effectively only postpones the mandate that ties compliance with state rules to institutional eligibility to participate in federal Title IV student aid programs.

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) oversees a voluntary effort by states and institutions to develop and implement reciprocity agreements that demonstrate compliance with the requirement that an institution has authorization to provide distance education to students residing in other states.  

In a blog post, Cheryl Dowd, director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Cooperative for Educational Technologies State Authorization Network (which is closely tied to NC-SARA) wrote:

“We cannot stress enough that the institution is still under a regulatory obligation to the states in which the institution enrolls students, offers services, or participates in activities. The compliance obligation may be met by individual state compliance or through participation in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) for SARA participating institutions, as provided in the SARA Manual.”

ED is also in the process of rewriting both the gainful employment and borrower defense to repayment regulations. Further, Politico recently reported that the Trump administration will seek to rewrite restrictions on how religious colleges access and use federal funding and to develop new rules that would allow federal funding to support non-traditional postsecondary education programs.


Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research


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