New Distance Learning Regulations to Spur High-Quality Distance and Competency-Based Programs, Better Serve Diverse Population of Higher Education Students

  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued final rules today that govern distance learning in higher education and promote educational innovation to better serve the needs of an increasingly diverse population of students.
  • While work on the Distance Learning and Innovation regulation started more than a year ago, the COVID-19 national emergency underscores the need for students to have access to high-quality remote learning options.
  • The final regulations:
    • Emphasize demonstrated learning over seat time.
    • Remove confusion over whether a course is eligible for Title IV aid by defining “regular and substantive” interaction between students and instructors.
    • Clarify and simplify the requirements for direct assessment programs, including how to determine equivalent credit hours.
    • Add a definition of “juvenile justice facility” to ensure that incarcerated students remain Pell eligible.
    • Allow students enrolled in Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA)-eligible foreign institutions to complete up to 25% of their programs at an eligible institution in the United States. This provision is particularly important for students temporarily unable to attend courses abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Encourage employer participation in developing educational programs.
    • Create a new, student-centric system for disbursing Title IV, HEA assistance to students in subscription-based programs.
    • Require prompt action by the Department on applications to participate, or continue to participate, as an eligible institution in the HEA, Title IV program. In the past, these applications have been stalled for months or even years.

Allow clock hour programs, which often lead to state licensed occupations, to utilize innovative learning models.