Picture of King Canute telling the tide to turn
Canute ordering the tide to stop

Kolowich, S. (2011) The states of online regulation Inside Higher Education, January 21

This is a report of a new study by Eduventures that looks at how different U.S. states license online programs coming from out-of-state.

‘It found that Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are among the least permissive states as far as requiring online institutions to acquire unique licenses to “operate” inside their borders.’

In other words, if you want students from Alabama, get a license.

However, there are wide variations between the states:

‘As higher education has evolved, state-by-state regulatory standards have remained “inconsistent, complex, and behind [the] online boom,” says the Eduventures report.

Now here’s a naive question. What happens if a publicly accredited university in say, California, offered an online program in Alabama without a license? Would the FBI arrest the President of the Californian university? Would Alabama’s state militia invade California? Would Alabama’s attorney-general throw in jail any students in Alabama who took the program? It MIGHT affect student financial aid, but many of these ‘least permissive’ states have already cut that, and the Eduventures report says the federal government will not intervene on this issue.

Can someone in the USA enlighten me on the meaning of requiring online programs to be licensed? Why does King Canute come to mind?


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