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Invitation to participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program

Attachments:
PublicationDate: 9/22/2000
FRPart:
RegPartsAffected: (12/31/99)(R)668.38
PageNumbers: 57322-57326
Summary: Invitation to participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program
CommentDueDate:

  
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[Federal Register: September 22, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 185)]
[Notices]
[Page 57322-57326]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr22se00-36]

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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 and notice of regional meetings to
provide technical assistance to parties interested in participating in
the Distance Education Demonstration Program.

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SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education invites institutions of higher
education (institutions), systems of institutions, and consortia of
institutions 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 HEA.
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 by
electronic mail or in hard copy to the addresses below. Applicants are
urged to submit applications only by electronic mail, to the e-mail
address below. Applications should clearly designate a contact person,
and the telephone number and the e-mail and street address of the
contact person.
Applications submitted by electronic mail should be submitted in
Microsoft Word version 7 or lower or WordPerfect version 7, 8, or 9.
To facilitate the application process, the Secretary of Education
will conduct regional meetings in the District of Columbia (October 18,
2000); Albuquerque, New Mexico (November 1, 2000); Chicago, Illinois
(November 9, 2000) and Seattle, Washington (November 29, 2000) to
provide advice and technical assistance to potential applicants for
participation in the Distance Education Demonstration Program. Further
information concerning these meetings may be found at the end of this
Notice and at the Distance Education Demonstration Program web site:

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/DistEd/DATES: Applications must be postmarked or submitted electronically on
or before February 16, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Applications submitted electronically. Institutions must
submit applications by e-mail by 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on February 16,
2001 to the following address: DistanceDemo@ed.gov
Applications submitted by mail: Hard copy applications must be sent
to Marianne R. Phelps, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K Street NW.,
Room 7112, Washington, DC 20006.
An institution must show proof of mailing these documents by
February 16, 2001. Proof of mailing consists of one of the following:
(1) A legible mail receipt with the date of mailing stamped by the U.S.
Postal Service, (2) a legibly dated U.S. Postal Service postmark, (3) a
dated shipping label, invoice, or receipt from a commercial carrier, or
(4) any other proof of mailing acceptable to the U.S. Secretary of
Education.
If these documents are sent through the U.S. Postal Service, the
Secretary does not accept either of the following as proof of mailing:
(1) A private metered postmark, or (2) a mail receipt that is not dated
by the U.S. Postal Service. Institutions should note that the U.S.
Postal Service does not uniformly provide a dated postmark. Before
relying on this method, an institution should check with its local post
office. You are encouraged to use certified or at least first-class
mail.
Applications delivered by hand. Hand-delivered applications must be
taken to Marianne R. Phelps, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K
Street NW., Room 7112, Washington, DC 20006.
Applications that are hand-delivered will be accepted between 9:00
a.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily (Eastern time), except Saturdays, Sundays, and
Federal holidays. Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on
February 16, 2001.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marianne R. Phelps at (202) 502-7713
or at DistanceDemo@ed.gov by e-mail. Information concerning the program
can also be found on the Distance Education Demonstration Program web
site:

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/DistEd/Individuals who use a telecommunications device for the deaf

[[Page 57323]]

(TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-
877-8339.
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. This
process 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 use of two
way video and the Internet to delivery instruction. 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, in 1998 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
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.
The legislation creating the program authorized the Secretary to
select, from among eligible applicants, up to a total of 15
institutions, systems of institutions, or consortia of institutions to
begin participation in the first year of 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 consortium 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 15 participants for the first year of the program were
selected in May of 1999 and began participation on July 1, 1999.
The Secretary is authorized to select, from among eligible
applicants, up to a total of 35 additional institutions, systems of
institutions, or consortia of institutions to begin participation in
the third year of the program, which will commence on July 1, 2001. The
Secretary anticipates that these additional institutions, systems or
consortia selected will continue to participate for three 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

[[Page 57324]]

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 administers 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
facilitates communication among participants and works 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 are represented on the implementation team and
monitor compliance with the requirements of the Distance Education
Demonstration Program.
The Department also works closely with accrediting agencies and
States to determine how their respective roles contribute to assuring
quality and integrity. Accrediting agencies play an important role in
monitoring the demonstration programs, consistent with their
responsibilities. Where State requirements are relevant to distance
education programs, the Department works 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 programs, two of the
purposes of the program that are specified in the statute. A copy of
the form containing the data collection requirements can be found on
the program Web site.
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 is 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; and
(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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)

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

[[Page 57325]]

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 specific 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 or explain why no
alternative is necessary;
7. An assurance that the institution, system, or a 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 for the students in the distance education programs. (This
would include such matters as the disbursement procedures that would be
followed, the definition of an academic year that would be used, how
attendance would be monitored, and the satisfactory academic progress
rules that would be followed.)

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 design and use of technology,
information regarding the educational environment and student support,
and student satisfaction surveys.

Guidance

The guidance provided below is intended to assist applicants in
determining what 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. Consortiums and systems
should also provide evidence that the agency or agencies which accredit
the schools comprising the consortium or system are willing to work
with the Department in evaluating issues relating to the quality of
distance education offered by the institutions as a result of their
membership in the consortium or system.
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

[[Page 57326]]

application will address how the applicant plans to document student
eligibility, including documentation of attendance.
6. Another major concern of the Department is that an applicant be
committed as an institution to the success of its proposed activities.
One way for an institution to demonstrate its commitment would be for
the institution to include with its application a letter from its chief
executive officer (or comparable official) expressing support for the
application and acknowledgement of the responsibilities that the
institution would assume if it were approved. Correspondingly, in the
case of a consortium applicant, the submission of such a letter from
the chief executive officer (or comparable official) of each of the
participating institutions would demonstrate such commitment.

Regional Meetings

Interested parties are invited to attend one of four regional
meetings where information, advice, and technical assistance will be
provided about applying to participate in the Distance Education
Demonstration Program and providing Federal financial aid to students
enrolled in distance education programs. The regional meetings will
begin with a brief description of eligibility requirements for the
Distance Education Demonstration Program and the application and
selection processes for this program. Individuals will then be provided
an opportunity to ask questions regarding the application process and
other matters relating to the Distance Education Demonstration Program.
Department of Education staff with expertise on various issues relating
to the Distance Education Demonstration Program will be available to
answer these questions. Questions regarding eligibility and
administration of Title IV, HEA student financial assistance programs
may be relevant to institutions' interest in applying for the Distance
Education Demonstration Program. Accordingly, during the course of the
meeting, Department staff will also address questions that relate
generally to the administration of aid in distance education programs.
For each of the meetings the Department of Education has reserved a
limited number of hotel rooms at a special per diem room rate. To
reserve these rates (see the exception for the November meeting) be
certain to inform the hotel that you are attending the regional
meetings with the Department of Education. The meeting sites are
accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Department will
provide a sign language interpreter at each of the scheduled hearings.
An individual with a disability who will need an auxiliary aid or
service other than an interpreter to participate in the meeting (e.g.,
assistive listening device, or materials in an alternative format)
should notify the contact person listed in this notice at least two
weeks before the scheduled meeting date. Although the Department will
attempt to meet a request received after that date, the requested
auxiliary aid or service may not be available because of insufficient
time to arrange it.

Dates, Times, and Locations of Regional Meetings

1. October 18, 2000, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Office of Postsecondary
Education Conference Center, 1990 K Street, NW., 8th floor, Washington,
DC 20006. Rooms available for October 17 at Embassy Square, 2000 N
Street, NW., Washington, DC, 20036. Call (202) 659-9000 for
reservations. Sleeping room rate $118.00 plus taxes. Reservations must
be made by October 1. Identify yourself as a participant in the
Department of Education regional meeting.
2. November 1, 2000, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Albuquerque, New Mexico
prior to the annual meeting of the Western Cooperative for Educational
Telecommunications. Hyatt Regency Hotel, 330 Tijeras NW, Albuquerque,
NM 87102, 800-233-1234 or reserve online: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.hyatt.com/albuq/g-wich/index.html Reference Western Cooperative for Educational
Telecommunications in making reservation. Sleeping room rates, single
$118 plus taxes; double $128 plus taxes. Reservations must be made by
September 30.
3. November 9, 2000, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Chicago, Illinois, Congress
Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605, 800-635-1666,
(312) 427-3800. Sleeping room rate, $130 plus taxes. Reservations must
be made by October 8, 2000. Identify yourself as a participant in the
Department of Education regional meeting.
4. November 29, 2000, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Seattle, Washington,
Claremont Hotel, 2000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, 877-448-8601,
(206) 448-8600. Sleeping room rate $104 plus taxes. Reservations must
be made by November 13. Identify yourself as a participant in the
Department of Education regional meeting.

Electronic Access to This Document

You may view this document, as well as all other Department of
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at either of the
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Note: The official version of this document is the document
published in the Federal Register. Free internet access to the
official edition of the Federal Register and the code of Federal
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: http://
www.access.gpo.gov/nara/index.html



Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1093.

A. Lee Fritschler,
Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.
[FR Doc. 00-24341 Filed 9-21-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P

]

Last Modified: 09/21/2000