The distance education regulations, which the Department attempted to put on hold, went into effect on May 26, 2019. These regulations were originally slated to go into effect on July 1, 2018. In its announcement on Monday, July 22, 2019, the Department said that California students enrolled in distance education courses at out-of-state public or non-profit institutions are no longer eligible for Title IV funds.
The distance education regulations require, among other things, that an institution providing distance education to an out-of-state student must document that the state in which the student resides has a process to review and take appropriate action on complaints against the institution by that student. If the state does not have such a process or does not participate in an appropriate reciprocity agreement (e.g., the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, “SARA”), the institution will not be able to meet this documentation requirement, and the student will not be eligible to participate in Title IV programs. Which brings us to California. California does not have a process to manage complaints for out-of-state non-profit and public institutions serving students residing in the State and it does not participate in SARA. This means that, as it stands, affected California students are not eligible for Title IV programs.
According to a Questions and Answers document published by the Department along with the announcement, it intends to file a motion for clarification or other appropriate relief in the NEA v. Devos, Case No. 18-CV-05173-LB (N.D. Cal.), in order to seek protection for California students. The Department has issued proposed regulations that will eliminate the complaint documentation requirement but until they are final and effective, or the court offers relief from the implementation, the 2016 regulations apply as written.
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Update: The California Department of Consumer Affairs issued a news release on Monday, July 29, 2019, announcing the development of a complaint process for students attending out-of-state online college programs, in a move intended to bring California into compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s distance education regulations. For more information about the complaint process, see the Department of Consumer Affairs’ news release: https://thedcapage.blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/DCA-Out-Of-State-Colleges-Complaint-Process-Press-Release-FINAL.pdf
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