We attended a statewide meeting in Montgomery, Alabama last week to discuss the state authorization issue and its latest implications for those serving online education on postsecondary levels.
For those new to the term "state authorization," this simply means the seeking and granting of permission for colleges and universities to "do business" outside of their states' boundaries. In order for us to teach online students outside of the state in which we operate, we must have permission (via a license or exemption, depending on the state) to serve the residents of each particular state represented by our students. If want to teach students in New York, we must have New York's permission to do so, either with a license or an exemption to the license.
That said, the issue very quickly gets complicated (and expensive!) as we navigate the unique and discrete requirements of each of the other forty-nine states in which we want to enroll students. The processes and costs are to be renewed at the end of each license period, which also varies by state. In the state of Alabama, as an example, an institution can expect to spend between $2,500 and $15,000 every two years to maintain license to teach Alabamians online.
In fact, the issue is so complicated that the legal mandate is yet to be set in stone. Courts have been knocking the issue around for a few years, and we do our best to keep up. In that spirit, I have added a "State Authorization" section to this blog (see navigation bar on RIGHT of screen) and will continue to add key links there that will help anyone who wants to learn more or keep a close eye on the state authorization issue as it evolves.
For the time being and for any players new to the game, I recommend a review of the history (beginning with links I've provided before generalized Web searching) and current state of the issue as well as the beginning (or continuation) of good faith efforts at compliance.
While reciprocity agreements are being negotiated and developed, state-to-state licensure is going to continue to be an issue that will require some level of documentation and investment, whether to individual states or to a collective representing an coalition of states. In either case, it's best that the relevant discussions and the consideration of processes, stakeholders and outcomes begin as soon as possible, if indeed they have not already begun.