WASHINGTON—States play a significant role in online education, both as providers and as regulators, according to Regulating Online Postsecondary Education: State Issues and Options released today by the National Governors Association (NGA).

In recent years, online courses and programs have become a more prominent part of postsecondary education in the United States. The number of students taking an online course has nearly quadrupled over the past decade, with nearly one-third of all postsecondary students in the nation—including many working adults—currently taking at least one course online.

As providers and regulators of online education, states have a unique and challenging opportunity. They must promote access and quality assurance while working in coordination with the federal government and accreditation agencies. The expectation that state regulators can ensure both access and quality will only grow with the continued expansion of online programs by public, private and for-profit institutions.

“Education is a top priority for all governors,” said Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. “With the rapid increase of individuals taking online courses, we must continue to look for new and innovative ways to provide our citizens with a quality education.”

Governors should consider calling for a review of current state laws and regulations surrounding authorization of online programs, focusing on questions in three key areas:

  • Purpose: What is the state trying to accomplish through the authorization process?
  • Requirements: What is required of institutions seeking authorization? How do the requirements relate to the purpose(s) of authorization?
  • Capacity and cost: Does the state have a sustainable model for authorization, assuming that the number of online institutions and programs seeking authorization will continue to grow? Could economies of scale be realized by joining with other states to authorize online institutions and programs?

To learn more, please visit http://www.nga.org/cms/center/edu.