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The Secretary of Education invites institutions of higher education (institutions), systems of institutions, consortia of institutions, and Western Governors University to submit applications to participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program

FR part
II
Attachments:
PublicationDate: 2/4/99
FRPart: II
RegPartsAffected:
PageNumbers: 5703-5707
Summary: The Secretary of Education invites institutions of higher education (institutions), systems of institutions, consortia of institutions, and Western Governors University to submit applications to participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program authorized under section 486 of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). Under the Distance Education Demonstration Program, selected institutions providing distance education programs may receive waivers of specific statutory and regulatory provisions governing the student financial assistance programs authorized under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, (Title IV of the HEA programs).
CommentDueDate:

  
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[


[Federal Register: February 4, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 23)]
[Notices]
[Page 5703-5707]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr04fe99-118]


[[Page 5703]]

_______________________________________________________________________

Part II





Department of Education





_______________________________________________________________________



Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs--Distance Education
Demonstration Program; Notice


[[Page 5704]]



DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION


Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs--Distance Education
Demonstration Program

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice inviting applications for participation in the Distance
Education Demonstration Program.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education invites institutions of higher
education (institutions), systems of institutions, consortia of
institutions, and Western Governors University to submit applications
to participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program
authorized under section 486 of title IV of the Higher Education Act of
1965, as amended (HEA). Under the Distance Education Demonstration
Program, selected institutions providing distance education programs
may receive waivers of specific statutory and regulatory provisions
governing the student financial assistance programs authorized under
title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, (Title IV of
the HEA programs).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION: Elements to be included in
an application are described in this notice. There is no application
form per se for the program. Applications should be submitted
electronically by electronic mail or in hard copy to the addresses
below. All applications should clearly designate a contact person, and
the telephone number and the e-mail address of the contact person.
Applications submitted by electronic mail should be submitted in
Microsoft Word version 6.1 or lower or WordPerfect version 6.0 or
lower. Applicants need only submit one original application. No copies
are necessary.

DATES: Applications must be postmarked or submitted electronically on
or before April 1, 1999.

ADDRESSES: DistanceDemo@ed.gov is the address for electronic
submission. For submission of an application in hard copy: mail hard
copy to Marianne R. Phelps, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Maryland
Avenue, S.W., (Room 4082, ROB-3), Washington, D.C. 20202 or hand
deliver to Marianne Phelps, U.S. Department of Education, Room 4082,
ROB-3, 7th and D Streets, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marianne R. Phelps at (202)
708-5547 or at DistanceDemo@ed.gov if e-mailed. Information
concerning the program can also be found on the Web site of the
Department (http://www.ed.gov). Individuals who use a
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m.
and 8 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an
alternate format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding
paragraph.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background and Purpose of the Distance Education Demonstration
Program

Over the past few years, there has been rapid growth in the number
of institutions providing courses and degree programs in various modes
of ``distance education.'' For purposes of the Distance Education
Demonstration Program and this notice, ``distance education'' is
defined as an educational process that is characterized by the
separation, in time or place, between instructor and student. Such term
may include courses offered principally through the use of television,
audio, or computer transmission, such as open broadcast, closed
circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite transmission; audio or computer
conferencing; video cassettes or discs; or correspondence.
This growth in distance education has occurred in response to
increasing demand from students who are restricted in their ability to
enroll in more traditional programs, including working adults, parents,
people who live in rural communities, and students with disabilities.
Another reason for this growth is the potential for cost control.
Distance education is attractive to institutions that seek to avoid
large investments in new facilities to meet student demand and to
students who can complete their educational programs more economically
using distance education for all or part of their studies.
Additionally, through consortia and other agreements among institutions
that provide distance education, many students are able to take
advantage of a richer selection of course offerings tailored to their
individual needs than are available at the institutions where they are
enrolled.
Distance education has been available to postsecondary education
students for many years. More recently, advancements in technology have
provided additional instructional opportunities through the
incorporation of print, telephone, fax, television, radio, video and
audio conference, the Internet, electronic mail and computer-based
integrated telecommunication systems. The richness of the available
technology has made the delivery of high quality distance education
possible and desirable for many more postsecondary education programs
and students.
Currently, some statutory provisions defining institutional
eligibility for the Title IV, HEA programs may limit the circumstances
in which Title IV, HEA program funds can be provided to students
enrolled in distance education. For example, institutions that offer
more than 50 percent of their courses via distance education or enroll
more than 50 percent of their students in distance education programs
[hereafter referred to as ``the 50 percent rules''] are not eligible to
participate in the Title IV, HEA programs.
Other statutory provisions, such as those dealing with the length
of an academic year and the minimum length of an eligible vocational
program, are based on the patterns and structure of ``traditional'' on-
campus education. As such, they can be burdensome and difficult to
apply to distance education programs. They may also limit institutions
from structuring programs that may best meet the needs of distance
education students, institutions, and systems and consortia of such
institutions. Similar problems may arise with regard to regulatory
provisions implementing part G of title IV of the HEA.
Many of these requirements were put in place to address abuses in
the Title IV, HEA programs and until recently did not have much effect
on institutions offering distance education programs or courses or
their students' eligibility for aid. However, at this point in the
evolution of distance education programs, changes to student aid
requirements may be necessary to allow students to take full advantage
of the opportunities distance education provides and to make it
possible for institutions to fully utilize the potential technology now
offers to enhance distance education courses and programs. On the other
hand, restructuring aid to fit these new patterns presents some risks
as well as opportunities, and care in designing alternatives to the
current student aid requirements is necessary to assure continued
integrity in the Title IV, HEA programs.
In response to these dual concerns, Congress enacted the Distance
Education Demonstration Program. As described in section 486(a) of the
HEA, the purpose of the program is to--
(1) Allow demonstration programs that are strictly monitored by the
Department of Education to test the quality and viability of expanded

[[Page 5705]]

distance education programs currently restricted under this Act;
(2) Provide for increased student access to higher education
through distance education programs; and
(3) Help determine the--
(A) Most effective means of delivering quality education via
distance education course offerings;
(B) Specific statutory and regulatory requirements which should be
altered to provide greater access to high quality distance education
programs; and
(C) Appropriate level of federal assistance for students enrolled
in distance education programs.
Under the Distance Demonstration Program, participants may offer
Title IV, HEA program funds to students enrolled in educational
programs utilizing distance education delivery methods for all or a
portion of their classes without being subject to certain statutory and
regulatory provisions, which the Secretary may waive, upon their
request. The purpose of these waivers is to test new ways of
administering the Federal student assistance programs and to consider
how the law and regulations might be altered to allow for expansion of
aid to distance students and still ensure program integrity. In the
first year of the program, the Secretary is authorized to select from
among eligible applicants, up to a total of 15 institutions, systems of
institutions, or consortia of institutions to participate in the
program. (For these purposes, a system of institutions could be a group
of institutions with a common governing board. An example would be a
community college system or a group of private institutions owned by
the same corporation. A consortia of institutions could be two or more
institutions that have agreed to collaborate on a common effort such as
sharing distance education courses or a two-year and four-year
institution cooperating to offer a bachelor's degree completion
program.)
The Secretary anticipates that the institutions, systems or
consortia selected will continue to participate for five years.
Participation, of course, will be conditioned upon their meeting the
requirements of the Distance Education Demonstration Program and
continued participation in Title IV, HEA programs. Institutions
desiring to withdraw from the Distance Education Demonstration Program
may do so without jeopardy to their participation in Title IV HEA
programs. Also, the scope of the participation, such as the specific
distance education programs included and waivers provided, may be
modified as agreed upon by the Secretary and the participant, to allow
for changes in the programs offered, the modes of delivery used, the
size of participants' distance programs, or other changes desired by
the Secretary or the participant as experience is gained in the
program.
The Department plans to administer this program through an
implementation team consisting of staff from various offices within the
Department. The Department recognizes the importance of identifying and
addressing any problems that arise during the course of the
demonstrations. It will facilitate communication among participants and
will work with institutions to provide technical assistance throughout
the demonstrations, beginning with the application process.
Departmental staff with responsibility for monitoring compliance with
Title IV program requirements will be well represented on the
implementation team and will monitor compliance with the requirements
of the Distance Education Demonstration Program.
The Department also anticipates working closely with accrediting
agencies and States to determine how their respective roles contribute
to assuring quality and integrity. Accrediting agencies will play a
substantial role in monitoring the demonstration programs, consistent
with their responsibilities. Where State requirements are relevant to
distance education programs, the Department will work with States to
determine how their monitoring role assists in insuring program
integrity.
The participants must agree to provide data and information that
will assist the Secretary in evaluating the Distance Education
Demonstration Program and in reporting to Congress as required by the
statute. The data and information provided by participants will assist
the Secretary in determining whether statutory and regulatory changes
might be needed to support the growth of quality distance education
courses and programs and the appropriate level of Federal assistance
for students enrolled in distance education program, two of the
purposes of the program that are specified in the statute. The
Department will publish a separate notice in the Federal Register that
will specify the data collection requirements for participants and
request comment on the paperwork burden associated with these
requirements. To the maximum extent possible, the Department will make
the data requirements of this program consistent with already existing
data collection requirements, thereby minimizing the burden on
participants.
The program is also designed to examine ways to assure the
integrity of Title IV, HEA programs in the context of distance
education. This examination will be accomplished principally through
the close monitoring of participants' administration of Title IV, HEA
programs.

Eligible applicants

The following institutions are eligible to apply to participate in
the Distance Education Demonstration Program:
(1) Institutions located in the United States that participate in
the Title IV, HEA programs;
(2) Institutions located in the United States that provide a two-
year program that leads to an associate degree or a four-year program
that leads to a baccalaureate or higher degree and would be eligible to
participate in the Title IV HEA programs but for the fact that they do
not meet one or both of the 50 percent rules; or
(3) Western Governors University.
In addition, systems and consortia of these institutions are
eligible to participate in the program.

Statutory and Regulatory Provisions That May Be Waived

The Secretary may waive statutory and regulatory provisions. To
obtain a waiver, an institution must request the waiver in its
application to participate in the program and must provide reasons for
the waiver. Where possible, the applicant should suggest an alternative
that is designed to meet the same objectives as those achieved by the
waived statutory or regulatory provision. For example, if an applicant
seeks to waive the requirement that students must achieve satisfactory
academic progress as defined in the regulations, the applicant should
suggest an alternative means to ensure that Federal student aid funds
are provided only to students who are making progress towards a degree
or certificate. An applicant need not include an alternative approach
with regard to a request to waive one or both of the 50 percent rules.

Statutory Provisions

The Secretary may waive the following HEA statutory provisions:
<bullet> Section 102(a)(3)(A). This section makes an otherwise
eligible institution ineligible if more than 50 percent of its courses
are offered by correspondence and telecommunication.
<bullet> Section 102(a)(3)(B). This section makes an otherwise
eligible institution ineligible if 50 percent or more of its students
are enrolled in correspondence or telecommunications courses.

[[Page 5706]]

<bullet> Section 484(l)(1). This section defines a
telecommunications student at an institution as a correspondence
student if 50 percent or more of the institution's courses are offered
by correspondence or telecommunication.
<bullet> The required minimum number of weeks of instruction
contained in section 481(a). This section provides that an academic
year must require at least 30 weeks of instructional time.
<bullet> The required minimum number of weeks of instruction
contained in section 481(b). This section provides that an eligible
vocational program must be provided during a minimum of 15 weeks, or in
limited circumstances, 10 weeks.

Regulatory Provisions

In addition to the aforementioned statutory provisions, the
Secretary may waive the regulatory provisions implementing part G of
the HEA which inhibit the operation of quality distance education
programs. Part G consists of sections 481 through 493B of the HEA.
These sections contain numerous provisions dealing with the Title IV,
HEA programs. In general, the regulations implementing these provisions
are contained in 34 CFR part 668.
(Under the Distance Education Demonstration Program, the Secretary
is authorized to waive any regulations governing part F of title IV,
which deals with need analysis and costs of attendance. However, the
Secretary is not authorized to issue regulations implementing part F;
therefore, there are no regulations to waive.)

Special Waivers for Western Governors University

In addition to the waivers described above, upon the request of
Western Governors University, the Secretary may waive statutory
provisions contained in title I and parts G and H of title IV of the
HEA that the Secretary determines to be appropriate because of the
unique characteristics of Western Governors University. If the
Secretary grants such a waiver, the Secretary will require the
university to undertake actions that are necessary to ensure the
integrity of the Title IV, HEA programs and the accountability of Title
IV, HEA program funds.

Application Requirements

Each application to participate in this program shall include--
1. The name, address, and web site address, if any, of the
institution, system, or members of the consortium seeking to
participate, and the name, title, mailing and E-mail addresses, and
telephone number of a contact person for the institution, system, or
consortium;
2. A description of the distance education programs offered or to
be offered for which the institution is seeking a waiver or waivers. An
institution may request a waiver or waivers for one, several, or all of
its distance education courses or programs. The description should
include the types of programs, degrees or certificates offered, program
goals, and the methods used or proposed to be used to deliver distance
education;
3. A description of the applicant's consultation with a recognized
accrediting agency or agencies with respect to quality assurances for
the distance education programs to be offered;
4. A description of the types of students that the distance
education programs are intended to serve, (e.g., adult learners, rural
populations, individuals with disabilities);
5. The Title IV, HEA programs under which distance education
students will receive funds;
6. The statutory and regulatory provisions to be waived, the scope
of each waiver, and the reason for each waiver. The applicant should
propose an alternative to the provision(s) or explain why no
alternative is necessary;
7. An assurance that the institution, system, or consortium will
fully cooperate with the ongoing evaluations of the program; and
8. A statement of the goals of the institution, system, or
consortium for participation along with the method the institution will
use to evaluate achievement of the goals.
In addition to the information described above, systems and
consortia must provide the following additional information--
1. A description of the system or consortium and the relationship
among the members of the system or consortium, a copy of any agreement
governing the relationship of institutions that are members of the
system or consortium, and a list of the institutions which are members;
2. A description of the manner in which the distance education
programs are or will be conducted among the system and consortium
members particularly as that manner is related to the waiver request;
and
3. The manner in which Title IV, HEA program funds will be
administered to the students in the distance education programs.

Selection of Participants

In selecting applicants to participate in the program, the
Secretary will take into account the--
1. Number and quality of applications received;
2. Department of Education's capacity to oversee and monitor the
applicant's participation;
3. Applicant's financial responsibility; administrative capability;
and the program or programs being offered via distance education; and
4. Necessity of including a diverse group of participating
institutions vis-a-vis size, mission, and geographic distribution.
As part of the selection process, the Department of Education will
screen the applications to ensure that applicants are eligible. Then,
outside reviewers will recommend the best applications given the
statutory criteria. The Secretary will make final selections, based on
the recommendations of the outside reviewers and the criteria listed in
statute.

Evaluations

The HEA requires the Secretary to submit reports to Congress
evaluating the Distance Education Demonstration Program annually and
eighteen months after the initiation of the program. As specified in
the Act, the evaluations are to include the following:
1. The extent to which the institution, system or consortium has
met the goals set forth in its application to the Secretary, including
the measures of program quality assurance.
2. The number and types of students participating in the programs
offered, including the progress of participating students toward
recognized certificates or degrees and the extent to which
participation in such programs increased.
3. Issues related to student financial assistance for distance
education.
4. Effective technologies for delivering distance education course
offerings.
5. The extent to which statutory or regulatory requirements not
waived under the program present difficulties for students or
institutions.
To assist the Secretary in conducting such evaluations,
participants in the distance education demonstration programs will be
required to provide information to the Secretary, such as: course level
detail regarding their offerings, the degrees or certificates awarded
for successful completion, data on persistence and completion, data
regarding student demographics, information regarding tuition and fees
charged by the participant, program

[[Page 5707]]

design and use of technology, information regarding the educational
environment and student support, student satisfaction surveys, and
average development costs for each field of study.
Based upon the results of the evaluations during the first year of
the program, the Secretary may select up to an additional 35
institutions, systems of institutions, and consortia of institutions to
participate in the third year of the program.

Guidance

The guidance provided below is intended to assist applicants in
determining information they may wish to include in their applications.
This guidance is non-binding and does not constitute criteria for
selection. Applications which do not include the information suggested
in the guidance will be considered on the same basis as applications
which include all or part of that information.
1. Applicants should consider describing the ways that they think
their proposals will assist the Department in determining new ways of
administering Federal student assistance programs that better meet the
needs of distance students.
2. It is important that the accrediting and State authorizing
agencies of the institution, or institutions that comprise a consortium
or system, are willing to collaborate with the Department to determine
how their complementary roles can best be structured to assure quality
and integrity in institutions' distance education programs. To this
end, applicants for the program should provide documentation that their
accrediting agencies and States are willing to work with the Department
to examine the respective roles of the agencies as they relate to
institutions' distance education programs. In that documentation,
accrediting agencies should certify that the individual distance
programs that the institution includes in its application are within
the scope of the institution's accreditation, and that the agency will
review the program at an appropriate time. To the extent that
accrediting agencies evaluate a particular consortial or system
relationship, the consortium or system's application should include
similar information.
3. While the Department will evaluate applications using the
statutory criteria, to the extent possible, the Department will view
those criteria in the context of the delivery of student aid to
distance students and any changes that are needed to facilitate that
process. Because the delivery of student aid is so critical to
improving access to distance education, a good application would fully
describe the applicant's ability to fully execute its plans and specify
waivers requested and substitutions and address fully the need for the
waivers and substitutions.
4. Applicants should consider establishing both quantitative and
qualitative objectives for their participation and include in the
application a description of how they intend to measure goal
attainment, including measures of program quality. The Department notes
that quantitative measures are essential for understanding goal
attainment.
5. A major concern of the Department is to insure that Federal
funds in the Distance Education Demonstration Program are used
appropriately. A good application will address how the applicant plans
to document student eligibility, including documentation of attendance.

Electronic Access to This Document

Anyone may view this document, as well as all other Department of
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or
portable document format (pdf) on the World Wide Web at either of the
following sites:

http://ocfo.ed.gov/fedreg.htm
http://www.ed.gov/news.html

To use the pdf you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader Program with
Search, which is available free at either of the previous sites. If you
have questions about using the pdf, call the U.S. Government Printing
Office toll free at 1-888-293-6498.
Anyone may also view these documents in text copy only on an
electronic bulletin board of the Department. Telephone: (202) 219-1511
or, toll free, 1-800-222-4922. The documents are located under Option
G--Files/Announcements, Bulletins and Press Releases.

Note: The official version of a document is the document
published in the Federal Register.

Authority: Section 488 of Pub. L. 105-244, enacted October 7,
1998.

Dated: February 1, 1999.
David A. Longanecker,
Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.
[FR Doc. 99-2701 Filed 2-3-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P




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Last Modified: 02/07/1999