By cracking down on the for-profit college industry, ostensibly to protect students from shoddy degree programs, the Obama administration has made it virtually impossible for small colleges to offer online programs. An article in Minding the Campus explains how the Department of Education “issued a regulation last October requiring institutions offering Internet classes to seek permission from every state in which they enroll so much as a single student.”That’s every single state wherever students are enrolled in an online course. The article continues:
But the department failed to take one crucial fact into account: This is the 21st century, and Web-based courses aren’t just a dodge employed by educational hustlers to lure masses of gullible students into cheap, shoddy programs of the kind that used to be advertised on matchbooks.It is the smaller and more budget-pinched…institutions that are feeling the brunt of the education department’s new rule: liberal-arts schools with limited administration personnel and cash-strapped state universities and community colleges. Some of those, citing the high costs of complying with 50 different sets of state licensing criteria plus stiff licensing fees in some states, already have plans to stop accepting online students living in the more expensive jurisdictions.Most colleges…likely won’t have the resources to thread their way through a maze of time-consuming authorizations now that the regulatory cat is out of the bag. Humble community colleges and small liberal-arts institutions may find themselves paying a steep price for the Education Department’s war against for-profits.
It is perhaps an unintended consequence of a well-meaning initiative — ensure that students enrolled in for-profit colleges are not conned into unpayable loans and worthless degrees — but there is no reason to make war on distance learning like this. By forcing colleges, including small and underfunded ones, to pay steep fees and get bogged down in an endless bureaucratic nightmare in order to offer courses online, the Obama administration has made distance learning virtually impossible for many higher education institutions.In this age of increased connectivity, online courses have become a worthwhile tool in higher education. At a time when exploding higher education costs threaten to price young people out of college — or saddle them with onerous debts — measures that can cut the cost of education should be promoted, not penalized.In the war against the young, can’t we just give peace a chance?