WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) Announces State Authorization Network Program

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New State Authorization Network (SAN) provides insights, strategies and training that address proposed federal regulations affecting online education programs crossing state boundaries

WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

We know from our experience at WCET that sharing the burdens and expenses can greatly extend value, impact and voice. This is one more way for us to help our members succeed in these trying times, said Russell Poulin, WCET Deputy Director.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), a leading cooperative, non-profit provider of solutions and services that accelerate the adoption of effective online learning practices and policies in American post-secondary education, today announced a targeted advisement service established to help institutions respond to new regulations proposed by the U.S. Department of Education.

The new State Authorization Network (SAN) responds to the October 29, 2010, U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) new “program integrity” regulations. The 90-page set of regulations on program integrity and student aid programs covers a wide range of issues, including Gainful Employment, Incentive Compensation, and Credit-Hour Definition; Institutions will be required to demonstrate that they are in compliance with state requirements applicable to distance learning in any state in which they enroll students by July 1, 2011. These regulations have the potential to touch thousands of institutions who offer online and instructional programs at a distance, and in multiple states.

Compliance will be challenging. Ellen Wagner, executive director of WCET, has noted that, “The rules and regulations regarding institutional approval vary greatly from state to state. In many cases, they are difficult and confusing to understand. Our members worry that they simply do not have the funding or the specialized resources to figure out how to navigate these murky waters on their own.”

Russell Poulin, WCET's Deputy Director for Research and Analysis, created SAN after being deluged with requests for information, consultation and support for responding to the new federal regulations from WCET members and state higher education leaders across the United States. State Authorization Network member services will include tracking how state leaders are approaching the challenges in each of the states, training on the federal regulations and advice on how to respond, webcasts that provide access to regulatory experts, and a database of effective practices for navigating each state's regulations.

“Expecting each institution to research, interpret, and act upon the approval and licensure regulations of each state is a highly inefficient use of staff time and misinterpretations could put an institution at risk,” observed Poulin. “We know from our experience at WCET that sharing the burdens and expenses can greatly extend value, impact and voice. This is one more way for us to help our members succeed in these trying times.” Poulin will serve as director for this initiative.

“Given the importance of this legislation in terms of student access and degree completion, it is vital that our universities have as much information and assistance as possible,” said Sona Karentz Anders, SAN Member and Vice Chancellor for Academic Strategies for the Oregon University System, “Being part of the SAN adds value to what we are already doing in Oregon at the System and campus levels. This is exactly the type of advocacy and support on policy issues we have come to expect from WCET.”

“In a recent Inside Higher Education column, I called for the development of a common mechanism for inter-State cooperation in the regulation of cross-border online learning." says Michael B. Goldstein, Co-Leader of the Higher Education Practice at the DC law firm Dow Lohnes. “WCET's State Authorization Network is an important step in furthering that goal. We applaud this initiative and look forward to continuing to work closely with WCET in supporting the needs of the growing number of institutions offering online learning across state lines.”

About WCET State Authorization Network
The cost for a WCET member system or a consortium to join the SAN is $5,000. Systems/consortia that are not yet WCET members will also need to join WCET to become part of the SAN. The SAN will officially commence with a 2-day member seminar in Boulder, CO, April 6-7, 2011. For more information please refer to the SAN website at http://wcet.wiche.edu/advance/state-authorization-network or contact mraymond(at)wiche(dot)edu.

About WCET
The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is a cooperative, membership-driven non-profit provider of solutions and services that accelerate the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education. More information about WCET's institutional membership resources, services and common interest groups can be found on WCET's website, http://wcet.wiche.edu.

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