U.S. Says California Is in Compliance With State Authorization Rules

California’s new process for giving online students enrolled at public and private nonprofit colleges outside the state a way to submit complaints about their institutions still falls short of new federal rules governing state authorization. But the U.S. Education Department now considers the state to be in compliance with the new rules, the federal agency said in a letter Friday.

The letter from Diane Auer Jones, principal deputy under secretary at the Education Department, appears to end what had been a controversy that had appeared to threaten eligibility for federal financial aid for tens of thousands of students. The U.S. Education Department said last month that Californians enrolled in online programs at public or private institutions in other states would be ineligible for aid under 2016 rules requiring institutions operating online to secure approval from each state in which they intend to enroll students. Consumer groups accused the Education Department of trying to retaliate against faculty unions that had sued the department for failing to implement the 2016 rules, which were crafted by the Obama administration, and doing so by punishing students.

California’s Department of Consumer Affairs last week activated a new process through which such students can submit complaints about their out-of-state online providers.

The letter from the Education Department said that the new process is inadequate under the 2016 rules because it appears to “simply [refer] a complaint to an institution’s accrediting agency or another agency in the state in which the institution is located,” because those bodies would be unable to enforce California laws. The 2016 rules require a state entity to oversee investigations of student complaints and resolve those complaints…. (continue reading…)