State Authorization for Distance Learners
Recent amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) include changes in individual State Authorization regulations that impact online, distance learning, and correspondence education providers.
Blue Ridge Community College is working to achieve compliance as established in HEOA 600.9 (c)
The specific portion of § 600.9 State authorization states:
If an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary [of Education] the State's approval upon request. (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1001 and 1002)
What BRCC is doing
While 99% of our online students live within the state of North Carolina, and we do not recruit from nor market to outside states, we are complying with the Federal Requirements by monitoring all incoming applications. Once the Registrar identifies student applicants from out of state, communication will begin with notification to the student for State Authorization requirements. If the student communicates in writing that they wish to take online courses with us, the Office for Instruction researches applicable state laws regarding distance education authorization.
The following policy was approved by the Blue Ridge Community College Board of Trustees on March 9, 2015:
The College reserves the right to refuse admission to any applicant who is not a resident of North Carolina who seeks enrollment in any distance education course only if that applicant resides in a state where the college is not authorized to provide distance education in that state.
Here is a Sample Inquiry Letter, that Blue Ridge is using to ask questions regarding State Authorization when we determine we have an out of state student wishing to take an online class.
State Contact Information
Pursuant to the United States Department of Education's Program Integrity Rule, each institution of higher education is required to provide all prospective and current students with the contact information of the state agency or agencies that handle complaints against postsecondary education institutions offering distance learning within that state.
At this time, we are exempt from the requirement to apply for authorization in the following states based on “no physical presence” or written authorization as defined in their published information. A link to that state’s Complaint process is provided below.
- Florida Exemption (Complaint Process - Florida Department of Education)
- Louisiana Exemption (Complaint Process - Board of Regents, State of Louisiana)
- Maine Exemption (Complaint Process - Office of the Maine Attorney General)
- South Carolina Exemption (Complaint Process - South Carolina Commission of Higher Education)
- Tennessee Exemption (Complaint Process - State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission)
- Texas Exemption (Complaint Process - Texas Workforce Commission)
- Virginia Exemption (Complaint Process - State Council of Higher Education for Virginia)
- West Virginia Exemption (Complaint Process - West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission)
Student Complaint Process
Students must begin with the Blue Ridge Community College internal complaint or review policies and procedures prior to filing a complaint with a state agency. To view this process, first access the current year BRCC Catalog and Student Handbook. Refer to and access the Student Grievance Procedure and Due Process section by searching for "Student Grievance Procedure and Due Process" within the catalog. If this process is not satisfactory, students may contact their State approval or licensing entity in the student's State of residency established to handle student complaints.
In North Carolina, the contact is the UNC-General Administration. Their website states:
If you were unable to resolve a complaint through the institution's grievance procedures, please review the Student Complaint Policy (PDF), print out and complete the Student Complaint Form (PDF) and submit the complaint to:
North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
c/o Student Complaints
University of North Carolina General Administration
910 Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688
Phone: (919) 962-4550, email@example.com
Outside state contact Information has been collected and frequently updated by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). This page can be accessed at: http://sheeo.org/sheeo_surveys/. Locate the desired state, click the agency, and search for “Consumer Protection and Student Complaints” to find the agency address, contact number and procedure for filing a complaint.
Blue Ridge Community College is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) to award the Associate in Arts Degree (A.A.), the Associate in Science Degree (A.S.), the Associate in Engineering (A.E.), the Associate in Fine Arts Degree (A.F.A.), the Associate in General Education (A.G.E.), and the Associate in Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.). Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Blue Ridge Community College.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a regional accrediting agency whose purpose is to identify and accredit institutions which meet the standards for quality and scope of higher education. Any questions concerning the accreditation of Blue Ridge Community College may be made directly to the College or to SACS at (404) 679-4500. Further, if a student feels the college has violated one of the principles of accreditation, they are advised the following (direct quote excerpt from http://www.sacscoc.org/FAQsanswers.asp#q12):
How can I file a complaint against an institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?
Complete the Commission's Complaint Form and send two print copies to the President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097. (To access the Commission's complaint policy, procedures, and the Complaint Form, please see Complaint Procedures Against the Commission or Its Accredited Institutions.)
Please read the document carefully before submitting a complaint. Note that the complaint policy only addresses significant, documented, alleged non-compliance with the SACSCOC accreditation standards, policies or procedures. Complainants are expected to have attempted to resolve the issue through the institution's complaint processes before filing a complaint with SACSCOC. The SACSCOC complaint process is not intended to be used to involve the Commission in disputes between individuals and member institutions or to cause the Commission to interpose itself as a reviewing authority in individual matters; nor does the policy allow the Commission to seek redress on an individual's behalf. The primary purpose of the SACSCOC complaint procedure is to acquire valuable information regarding an accredited institution's possible non-compliance with accreditation standards, policies and procedures rather than to resolve individual disputes. Complaints must be tied to specific standard numbers from The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement.
If a student plans to seek professional licensure or certification in the state where they plan to practice that may rely on the credits or certificates obtained at BRCC, please contact the Student Services Department for assistance in determining if those courses meet licensing requirements. To assist with this process, the following document provides state contacts for licensure agencies.