Distance Learning Out of State Authority

Distance Learning Out of State Authority

Relevant Actions:

October 29, 2010: The U.S. Department of Education published in the Federal Register final rules under the "Program Integrity" strand of the of negotiated rule making. Under the rules, universities and colleges that participate in Title IV funding and operate in multiple states via distance learning must comply with whatever "authorization to operate" regulations are in place in those states where the institution has enrolled students or is otherwise active, based on state definitions.

July 12, 2011: The District Court of the District of Columbia vacated the requirement for state authorization from the federal rule. However, the state regulations remain.

July 27, 2012: The U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter about state authorization, part of the program integrity regulations. Question 7 made clear that the Department will not be enforcing 600.9(c), which extends state authorization requirements to distance education in a state in which the institution is not physically located. See http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1213Attach.pdf

SUNY Campus Considerations

Campuses must comply with individual State regulations on distance education and physical presence as applicable to their student population. SUNY System Administration requested exemption from authorization from each state. Based on the responses we have received, campuses may need to seek individual authorization from those states in which they deliver distance education courses. If a campus decides not to seek authorization in states in which authorization is required, the campus should notify students studying in those particular states that they cannot register for distance education courses.

SUNY campuses with no physical presence, as defined by that state, are exempt in the following states: Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) has updated its website with current information from each state as to state requirements for authorization for Distance Education, including state definitions of physical presence. See V. 2.0 of the SHEEO Compendium of State Regulations http://www.sheeo.org/stateauth/stateauth-agency.htm

Complaint Resolution

SUNY students should first attempt to resolve complaints with the SUNY campus. The Student Handbook usually describes the appropriate complaint procedures. However, the U.S. Department of Education regulations require each State to have a process to handle complaints for all institutions in their State, except Federally-run institutions (including service academies) and tribal institutions such as tribally-controlled community colleges. For purposes of HEA eligibility under these regulations, the State remains responsible for responding to complaints about institutions in the State regardless of what body or entity actually manages complaints.

Institutions delivering courses by distance education are required to provide students or prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with the State approval or licensing entity in the student’s State of residency and any other relevant State official or agency that would appropriately handle a student's complaint. State Contact Information has been collected by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). Each SUNY campus delivering distance education in other states may use the linked SHEEO list, http://www.sheeo.org/stateauth/Complaint%20Process%20Links.pdf on its website and should acknowledge SHEEO for this document,

Academic Affairs