Department of Education Final Distance Education Regulations

  • New federal regulations on distance education highlight long-standing tensions between consumer advocates seeking stronger state-level protections for students and higher education groups seeking shared national standards.
  • The rule draws on the April 2016 previous version, but contains important changes concerning the scope of professional licensure disclosures and eliminating the requirement for states to maintain an adequate process for reviewing student complaints.
  • Department of Education (ED) clarified that, under the new rule, a qualifying state authorization reciprocity agreement cannot “prohibit any member State of the agreement from enforcing its own general-purpose State laws and regulations outside of the State authorization of distance education.”
  • States may still enforce “general-purpose” consumer protection laws against institutions operating in their jurisdiction under a reciprocity agreement as long as those laws are not specific to out-of-state education providers.
  • The regulations will take effect on July 1, 2020, but ED will allow early implementation as of November 1, 2019, which would bypass compliance with the 2016 rules currently in effect.