When the Higher Education Act was last reauthorized as the Higher Education Opportunity Act, a new provision was included that required institutions of higher education participating in Title IV programs to be able to document compliance with laws in all states where they offer distance or correspondence education. The provision is included in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Program Integrity rules [PDF], 34 C.F.R. § 600.9(c), published in 2010. This provision called attention to states’ processes requiring universities to seek approval for educational activities being conducted or received outside of the home state.
Updates were made during the 2018-2019 negotiated rulemaking sessions, which resulted in the regulations being updated in July 2020. You can find a description of the changes on ED’s website. The rules expand the protections earlier afforded only to distance learning students by requiring all institutions to notify a student whether programs that lead to licensure will qualify a student to sit for the exam or be licensed in a given State.
States participating in a State authorization reciprocity agreement may still enforce their own general-purpose State laws and regulations outside of the State authorization of distance education, so universities may still need to secure authorization for some states if warranted.
A complicating factor relates to the variations among states in how distance education is defined, including what constitutes “physical presence.” For example, one state may require authorization for any student completing any activity for which he/she receives academic credit, including clinical practicum, while a neighboring state may exclude clinical practicum or fieldwork activities as a trigger and, hence, require no authorization.
ASHA’s quick reference resource [PDF] outlines whether authorization may be required for clinical practicum placement outside of the home state of the university. This resource is meant to assist those responsible for coordinating students’ clinical practicum placements in identifying when the university may need to take additional steps to secure required authorizations. Specific questions regarding the application and verification should be directed to the contact listed for each state.
Since the 2010 publication of ED’s Program Integrity Rules, much work has been done nationwide to consider and establish a reciprocity agreement among the states to ensure consistency in definitions, costs, and other matters for state authorization of postsecondary education. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) conducted a series of surveys related to this topic, including the April 2014 survey mentioned above.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) was established during the past decade and now serves as the primary non-governmental organization that supports the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. Commonly known as SARA, these provide a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education, streamlining policies and processes. Both states and institutions of higher education can participate in SARA. Although SARA sets forth a reasonable, uniform set of triggers of “physical presence,” they do not affect the application of existing State laws to institutions that choose to operate outside of SARA or which are based in States that are not SARA members, and therefore approvals may be needed for clinical practicum placements.
NC-SARA maintains The State Authorization Guide—a collection of state laws, regulations, and requirements for institutions serving out-of-state students—as a collaborative project of NC-SARA and the WCET State Authorization Network (SAN).