Laws & Guidance HIGHER EDUCATION
1998 Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965
P.L. 105-244

TITLE IV--STUDENT ASSISTANCE

PART G--GENERAL PROVISIONS

SEC. 488. DISTANCE EDUCATION DEMONSTRATION PROGRAMS

Section 486 (20 U.S.C. 1083) is amended to read as follows:

`SEC. 486. DISTANCE EDUCATION DEMONSTRATION PROGRAMS.

`(a) PURPOSE- It is the purpose of this section--

`(1) to 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) to provide for increased student access to higher education through distance education programs; and

`(3) to help determine--

`(A) the most effective means of delivering quality education via distance education course offerings;

`(B) the specific statutory and regulatory requirements which should be altered to provide greater access to high quality distance education programs; and

`(C) the appropriate level of Federal assistance for students enrolled in distance education programs.

`(b) DEMONSTRATION PROGRAMS AUTHORIZED-

`(1) IN GENERAL- In accordance with the provisions of subsection (d), the Secretary is authorized to select institutions of higher education, systems of such institutions, or consortia of such institutions for voluntary participation in a Distance Education Demonstration Program that provides participating institutions with the ability to offer distance education programs that do not meet all or a portion of the sections or regulations described in paragraph (2).

`(2) WAIVERS- The Secretary is authorized to waive for any institution of higher education, system of institutions of higher education, or consortium participating in a Distance Education Demonstration Program, the requirements of section 472(5) as the section relates to computer costs, sections 481(a) and 481(b) as such sections relate to requirements for a minimum number of weeks of instruction, sections 102(a)(3)(A), 102(a)(3)(B), and 484(l)(1), or one or more of the regulations prescribed under this part or part F which inhibit the operation of quality distance education programs.

`(3) ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS-

`(A) ELIGIBLE INSTITUTIONS- Except as provided in subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D), only an institution of higher education that is eligible to participate in programs under this title shall be eligible to participate in the demonstration program authorized under this section.

`(B) PROHIBITION- An institution of higher education described in section 102(a)(1)(C) shall not be eligible to participate in the demonstration program authorized under this section.

`(C) SPECIAL RULE- Subject to subparagraph (B), an institution of higher education that meets the requirements of subsection (a) of section 102, other than the requirement of paragraph (3)(A) or (3)(B) of such subsection, and that provides a 2-year or 4-year program of instruction for which the institution awards an associate or baccalaureate degree, shall be eligible to participate in the demonstration program authorized under this section.

`(D) REQUIREMENT- Notwithstanding any other provision of this paragraph, Western Governors University shall be considered eligible to participate in the demonstration program authorized under this section. In addition to the waivers described in paragraph (2), the Secretary may waive the provisions of title I and parts G and H of this title for such university that the Secretary determines to be appropriate because of the unique characteristics of such university. In carrying out the preceding sentence, the Secretary shall ensure that adequate program integrity and accountability measures apply to such university's participation in the demonstration program authorized under this section.

`(c) APPLICATION-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Each institution, system, or consortium of institutions desiring to participate in a demonstration program under this section shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may require.

`(2) CONTENTS- Each application shall include--

`(A) a description of the institution, system, or consortium's consultation with a recognized accrediting agency or association with respect to quality assurances for the distance education programs to be offered;

`(B) a description of the statutory and regulatory requirements described in subsection (b)(2) or, if applicable, subsection (b)(3)(D) for which a waiver is sought and the reasons for which the waiver is sought;

`(C) a description of the distance education programs to be offered;

`(D) a description of the students to whom distance education programs will be offered;

`(E) an assurance that the institution, system, or consortium will offer full cooperation with the ongoing evaluations of the demonstration program provided for in this section; and

`(F) such other information as the Secretary may require.

`(d) SELECTION-

`(1) IN GENERAL- For the first year of the demonstration program authorized under this section, the Secretary is authorized to select for participation in the program not more than 15 institutions, systems of institutions, or consortia of institutions. For the third year of the demonstration program authorized under this section, the Secretary may select not more than 35 institutions, systems, or consortia, in addition to the institutions, systems, or consortia selected pursuant to the preceding sentence, to participate in the demonstration program if the Secretary determines that such expansion is warranted based on the evaluations conducted in accordance with subsections (f) and (g).

`(2) CONSIDERATIONS- In selecting institutions to participate in the demonstration program in the first or succeeding years of the program, the Secretary shall take into account--

`(A) the number and quality of applications received;

`(B) the Department's capacity to oversee and monitor each institution's participation;

`(C) an institution's--

`(i) financial responsibility;

`(ii) administrative capability; and

`(iii) program or programs being offered via distance education; and

`(D) ensuring the participation of a diverse group of institutions with respect to size, mission, and geographic distribution.

`(e) NOTIFICATION- The Secretary shall make available to the public and to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives a list of institutions, systems or consortia selected to participate in the demonstration program authorized by this section. Such notice shall include a listing of the specific statutory and regulatory requirements being waived for each institution, system or consortium and a description of the distance education courses to be offered.

`(f) EVALUATIONS AND REPORTS-

`(1) EVALUATION- The Secretary shall evaluate the demonstration programs authorized under this section on an annual basis. Such evaluations specifically shall review--

`(A) 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;

`(B) 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;

`(C) issues related to student financial assistance for distance education;

`(D) effective technologies for delivering distance education course offerings; and

`(E) the extent to which statutory or regulatory requirements not waived under the demonstration program present difficulties for students or institutions.

`(2) POLICY ANALYSIS- The Secretary shall review current policies and identify those policies that present impediments to the development and use of distance education and other nontraditional methods of expanding access to education.

`(3) REPORTS-

`(A) IN GENERAL- Within 18 months of the initiation of the demonstration program, the Secretary shall report to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives with respect to--

`(i) the evaluations of the demonstration programs authorized under this section; and

`(ii) any proposed statutory changes designed to enhance the use of distance education.

`(B) ADDITIONAL REPORTS- The Secretary shall provide additional reports to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives on an annual basis regarding--

`(i) the demonstration programs authorized under this section; and

`(ii) the number and types of students receiving assistance under this title for instruction leading to a recognized certificate, as provided for in section 484(l)(1), including the progress of such students toward recognized certificates and the degree to which participation in such programs leading to such certificates increased.

`(g) OVERSIGHT- In conducting the demonstration program authorized under this section, the Secretary shall, on a continuing basis--

`(1) assure compliance of institutions, systems or consortia with the requirements of this title (other than the sections and regulations that are waived under subsections (b)(2) and (b)(3)(D));

`(2) provide technical assistance;

`(3) monitor fluctuations in the student population enrolled in the participating institutions, systems or consortia; and

`(4) consult with appropriate accrediting agencies or associations and appropriate State regulatory authorities.

`(h) DEFINITION- For the purpose of this section, the term `distance education' means 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--

`(1) television, audio, or computer transmission, such as open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite transmission;

`(2) audio or computer conferencing;

`(3) video cassettes or discs; or

`(4) correspondence.'.

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Last Modified: 09/25/2003