|Publication Date: September 2003
Page Numbers: 52578-52581
Summary: Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs--Distance Education Demonstration Program
Posted on 09-10-2003
[Federal Register: September 4, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 171)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs--Distance Education
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, 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 HEA.
Instructions for Submitting an Application: Elements to be included
in an application are described in this notice. There is no application
form for the program. Proposals 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
Applications submitted by electronic mail should be submitted in
Microsoft Word version 7 or lower or WordPerfect version 7, 8, or 9.
Further information concerning technical assistance may be found at
the end of this notice and at the Distance Education Demonstration
Program Web site: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/DistED/.
DATES: Applications must be postmarked or submitted electronically on
or before October 6, 2003.
ADDRESSES: Applications submitted electronically. Institutions must
submit applications by e-mail by 5 p.m. Eastern time on October 6, 2003
to the following address: DistanceDemo@ed.gov. �
Applications submitted by mail: Hard copy applications must be sent
to Rose Fletcher, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K Street NW., Room
80, Washington, DC 20006.
Â Â Â An institution must show proof of mailing these documents by
October 6, 2003. 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
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â Applications delivered by hand. Hand-delivered applications must be
taken to Rose Fletcher, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K Street,
NW., Room 8031, Washington, DC 20006.
Â Â Â Applications that are hand-delivered will be accepted between 9
a.m. and 5 p.m. daily (Eastern time), except Saturdays, Sundays, and
Federal holidays. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on October 6,
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carney McCullough or David Bergeron
via telephone at (202) 502-7575 or via Internet: DistanceDemo@ed.gov.Â Â Â
Information concerning the program can also be found on the
Distance Education Demonstration Program Web site: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/DistEd/.
Â Â Â If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
Â Â Â Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer
diskette) on request to the contact person listed in the preceding
Background and Purpose of the Distance Education Demonstration Program
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â The growth in distance education has occurred in response to
increasing demand from students who have little or no options 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 also attractive to institutions that are unable to make
large investments in new facilities to meet increased student demand.
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
Â Â Â Currently, some statutory provisions defining institutional
eligibility for the Title IV, HEA programs 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.
Â Â Â Other statutory and regulatory provisions are based on the patterns
and structure of on-campus education and traditional academic terms. 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.
Â Â Â Enacted in 1998, as described in section 486(a) of the HEA, the
purpose of the Distance Education Demonstration Program is to--
Â Â Â (1) Allow demonstration programs that are strictly monitored by the
Department of Education (Department) to test the quality and viability
of expanded distance education programs currently restricted under HEA;
Â Â Â (2) Provide for increased student access to higher education
through distance education programs; and
Â Â Â (3) Help determine the--
Â Â Â (A) Most effective means of delivering quality education via
distance education course offerings;
Â Â Â (B) Specific statutory and regulatory requirements which should be
provide greater access to high quality distance education programs; and
Â Â Â (C) Appropriate level of Federal assistance for students enrolled
in distance education programs.
Â Â Â Under the Distance Education 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, upon granting by the Secretary of
an institution's request for waiver of these provisions. 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.
Â Â Â The legislation creating this 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.
Â Â Â 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. Nine institutions, systems of
institutions or consortia of institutions were selected in June 2001
and began participation on July 1, 2001. Additional institutions,
systems of institutions, or consortia of institutions will be selected
to increase the diversity of the types of institutions in the program.
The Secretary anticipates that these additional institutions, systems
or consortia selected will continue to participate until June 30, 2005.
Participation 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 but
must meet all the eligibility criteria in section 102 of HEA. 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.
Â Â Â On November 1, 2002, the Department published regulations that
modified 34 CFR Sections 668.2, 668.3, and 668.8 that limited
institutions in the area of distance learning. These changes were
based, in part, on experiences gained from the Distance Education
Demonstration Program. Since that time, we have decided that it would
be appropriate to accept applications to participate in this program to
determine what other barriers continue to exist and to increase the
diversity of the types of participants in the Distance Education
Demonstration Program. To that end, we are particularly seeking
applications from eligible applicants that would increase the diversity
of the types of participants in the Distance Education Demonstration
Program, particularly in the number of institutions that exclusively
provide instruction online.
Â Â Â The Department works closely with accrediting agencies and States
to determine how their respective roles contribute to assuring quality
and integrity in distance learning. 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 ensuring program
Â Â Â 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 HEA.
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
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â The following institutions are eligible to apply to participate in
the Distance Education Demonstration Program:
Â Â Â (1) Institutions located in the United States that participate in
the Title IV, HEA programs; and
Â Â Â (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. Such institutions must
apply to participate in Title IV, HEA programs at the same time they
submit an application to the Distance Education Demonstration Program.
Â Â Â In addition, systems and consortia of these institutions are
eligible to participate in this program. As stated earlier, the
Secretary is particularly interested in including institutions that
exclusively provide instruction on-line.
Statutory and Regulatory Provisions That May Be Waived
Â Â Â 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 Department 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
Â Â Â The Secretary may waive the following HEA statutory provisions:
Â Â Â [sbull] 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.
Â Â Â [sbull] 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.
Â Â Â [sbull] Section 484(l)(1). This section defines a
telecommunications student at an institution as a correspondence
student if (1) the student is enrolled in certificate programs of less
than one year; (2) the institution provides more certificate than
degree programs; or (3) 50 percent or more of the institution's courses
are offered by correspondence and telecommunications.
Â Â Â In addition to the aforementioned statutory provisions, the
Secretary may waive the regulatory provisions implementing part G of
HEA that inhibit the operation of quality distance education programs.
Part G consists of sections 481 through 493B of HEA. These sections
contain numerous provisions dealing with the Title IV, HEA programs
including those that limit the amount of aid that can be provided for
correspondence courses and programs. In general, the regulations
implementing these provisions are contained in 34 CFR part 668.
Â Â Â (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 Proposal Requirements
Â Â Â Each application proposal to participate in this program shall
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â 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;
Â Â Â 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);
Â Â Â 5. The Title IV, HEA programs under which distance education
students will receive funds;
Â Â Â 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;
Â Â Â 7. An assurance that the institution, system, or a consortium will
fully cooperate with the Department's ongoing evaluations of the
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â In addition to the information described above, systems and
consortia must provide the following additional information--
Â Â Â 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;
Â Â Â 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;
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â In selecting applicants to participate in the Distance Education
Demonstration Program, the Secretary will take into account the--
Â Â Â 1. Number and quality of applications received;
Â Â Â 2. Department's capacity to oversee and monitor the applicant's
Â Â Â 3. Applicant's financial responsibility, administrative capability,
and the program or programs being offered via distance education; and
Â Â Â 4. Necessity of including different types of participating
institutions vis-[agrave]-vis size, mission, and geographic
distribution, with an emphasis on institutions that provide education
exclusively through on-line instruction.
Â Â Â As part of the selection process, the Department 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
Â Â Â 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
HEA, the evaluations are to include the following:
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â 3. Issues related to student financial assistance for distance
Â Â Â 4. Effective technologies for delivering distance education course
Â Â Â 5. The extent to which statutory or regulatory requirements not
waived under the Distance Education Demonstration Program present
difficulties for students or institutions.
Â Â Â To assist the Secretary in conducting such evaluations,
participants in the Distance Education Demonstration Program 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.
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â 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 this 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.
Â Â Â 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 the changes that are needed to facilitate that
process. Because the delivery of student aid is so critical to
improving access to distance education, an application should fully
describe the applicant's ability to fully execute its plans for student
aid delivery and specify waivers requested and substitutions and
address fully the need for the waivers and substitutions.
Â Â Â 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
Â Â Â 5. A major concern of the Department is to ensure that Federal
funds in the Distance Education Demonstration Program are used
appropriately. An application should address how the applicant plans to
document student eligibility, including documentation of student
Â Â Â 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 is 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 the application 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.
Â Â Â Interested parties are invited to consult the Distance Education
Demonstration Program Web site for information about applying to
participate in the Distance Education Demonstration Program and
providing Federal financial aid to students enrolled in distance
education programs. The Web site also contains the names and contact
information for Department staff with expertise on various issues
relating to the Distance Education Demonstration Program who are
available to answer questions and provide technical assistance
regarding eligibility and administration of Title IV, HEA student
financial assistance programs.
Electronic Access to This Document
Â Â Â 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 the following site:
Â Â Â You also may view this document in text or PDF at the following
Â Â Â To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S.
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free at 1-888-293-6498 or in the
Washington, DC area at (202) 512-1530.
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1093.
Â Â Â Dated: August 29, 2003.
Sally L. Stroup,
Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education.
[FR Doc. 03-22547 Filed 9-3-03; 8:45 am]
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