Summary: This letter provides information regarding the eligibility of students enrolled in courses offered through distance education to receive financial assistance from the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
SUBJECT: This letter provides information regarding the eligibility of students enrolled in courses offered through distance education to receive financial assistance from the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
Over the past year there has been rapid growth in the number of institutions providing courses and degree programs in various modes of distance education. As a result the Department has received many inquiries concerning the eligibility for Title IV, HEA student financial assistance of students enrolled in distance education courses and of institutions that offer these courses. It has become apparent that there is a need to clarify how distance education affects institutional and student eligibility under the Title IV, HEA Programs.
For purposes of this discussion, we define distance education as a learning and teaching mode characterized by the separation of place and/or time between instructor and student. Currently, the statutes and regulations governing the Title IV, HEA Programs do not use the term "distance education." Instead they use the terms "correspondence" and "telecommunications." Therefore, when we refer to distance education in this letter, we mean the combination of programs and courses offered by correspondence and telecommunications.
The statutes and regulations governing the Title IV, HEA Programs were developed when far fewer institutions were actively engaged in distance education as we are coming to understand it today. As a result, institutions are finding it difficult to apply some of those statutory and regulatory requirements to distance education programs. The purpose of this letter is to set forth the statutory and regulatory provisions currently applicable to the various forms of distance education programs [Enclosure 1 -- Distance Education Fact Sheet] and to address some of the questions institutions have posed concerning the awarding of Title IV, HEA Program funds to students enrolled in distance education programs [Enclosure 2 -- Questions and Answers].
The Department recognizes that significant changes in the HEA are required to accommodate new modes of delivering educational programs. To that end, the Departments proposals for reauthorization of the HEA, if adopted, would expand the availability of Title IV, HEA Program funds to students in distance education programs. These proposals, along with others that address the need to respond to changes in educational delivery, are currently under discussion as a part of the reauthorization of the HEA. The Departments reauthorization proposals may be found on the Internet (http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/Reauthor/).
If you have any questions or comments on the materials enclosed with this letter, please contact Cheryl Leibovitz of our Policy Development Division by phone at (202)708-8242 or by e-mail at Cheryl_Leibovitz@ed.gov.
Diane E. Rogers
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
Student Financial Assistance Programs