State Authorization for Distance Education

All U.S. States require post-secondary educational institutions to be legally authorized to provide post-secondary educational instruction in their states. Many of these state laws and regulations also apply to online, distance and correspondence educational instruction offered in that state. As such, Southern Arkansas University (SAU) and its online/distance education programs must be authorized in certain states prior to offering those courses or programs to students residing in those states. The purpose of this policy is to create an institutional process to comply with any state authorization requirements applicable to SAU online/distance education programs.

Federal and State Regulations for “State Authorization” of Distance Education

1. State Authorization–An Introduction

On October 29, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released new “program integrity” regulations.  One of the regulations focused on the need for institutions offering distance or correspondence education to acquire authorization from any state in which it “operates.”  This authorization is required to maintain eligibility for students of that state to receive federal financial aid. Institutions have until July 1, 2015, to have obtained the appropriate approvals. Meanwhile, institutions are required to demonstrate a ‘good faith’ effort to comply in each state in which it serves students. While the regulation has been ‘vacated’ by court order, we believe it will be reinstated.

State regulations predate the federal regulation and remain in effect. States with regulations expect that institutions already be in compliance with their regulations before serving any students in their state.

2. The State Authorization Regulation Chapter 34, + 600.9(c)

“If an institution is offering post-secondary 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 distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State’s approval upon request.”

Approved States Where SAU Can Offer Distance Education Courses

As of August 1, 2014, SAU is authorized to offer Distance Education courses in 38 states.  We are in the process of contacting the remaining states, learning their approval requirements, and securing their approval before the July 1, 2015 (USDOE) deadline.