Panel Looks at Online Classes Requirements

E-newsletter Issue #82 | Nov. 10, 2011

As more and more postsecondary institutions begin to offer classes online, the need for a streamlined regulatory review of those programs grows.

Designed originally to regulate in-state residential campuses, accreditation requirements and evaluative measures vary considerably from state to state. Fifty individual states, and the institutions that seek approval to offer courses within them, now engage in duplicative, costly, time-consuming and inconsistently applied regulatory exercises. Moreover, some states exercise minimum quality controls, reducing the ability of states to accept approvals to operate and offer courses on an interstate basis.

Because of this need for reform, The Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, in conjunction with The Presidents’ Forum, a collaboration of accredited, national, adult-serving institutions and programs that have embraced the power and potential of online education, is looking at developing an interstate compact that would allow states and institutions to more efficiently offer online courses across state lines. 

“If the states do not step in and find a way to reasonably and cooperatively regulate the hundreds, if not thousands, of postsecondary institutions offering online classes, programs and degrees at all levels, then the (U.S.) Department of Education might,” said George Roedler, the manager of Institutional Registration & Licensing in the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and a member of the compact drafting team. “An interstate compact protects the states’ regulatory authority and enables the states to have real input into the structure of the agreement.”

The idea for the compact came about as a joint effort between CSG’s Compact Center and The Presidents’ Forum and is being funded through a grant from the Lumina Foundation.

The drafting team met for the second time Nov. 2–3, 2011, in Lexington, Ky. Composed of 10 experts from around the country—including state policymakers, key stakeholders and interstate compact experts—the drafting team discussed the core content areas of the compact. Those include:

  • Applicability;

  • Reciprocal acceptability of state approvals to operate;

  • Accreditation of degree-granting institutions;

  • Recertification/renewal process for institutions; and

  • Operational issues.

While many issues still need to be resolved, staff and members of the drafting team were pleased with the project’s progress and believe the compact idea provides states and institutions a significant opportunity to improve the regulatory process for online degree granting programs.

”Those of us that have worked on this issue through the Presidents’ Forum and CSG are very pleased with the diversity, capability and collaboration of the members of the drafting team as they consider the complex issues linked to state reciprocity in institutional authorization,” said Paul Shiffman, executive director of the Presidents’ Forum. “Though there is still considerable work ahead, we are encouraged by the quality and depth of our dialogue in developing a model interstate compact, and believe that support for this effort will continue to grow when a proposed compact is made available for review early next year.”

The drafters will meet again next year to continue discussions around several key areas of the compact, including the definition of physical presence, how the compact will be financed and the compact’s governance structure. The goal of the drafting team is to finalize compact language by late spring or early summer of 2012 to allow plenty of time for stakeholder feedback prior to the 2013 legislative session. That is expected to be the first session in which states have an opportunity to consider and adopt the compact. 

For more information about the Interstate Reciprocity Compact, contact Crady deGolian at

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