Distance Education Demonstration Program

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This program supports the use of technology to deliver instruction by issuing waivers of certain Department regulations in order to enhance access to federal student aid for distance education students pursuing college-level academic studies and training.

Additional Information


Over the past several years, there has been rapid growth in the number of institutions providing courses and degree programs in various modes of distance education. Hundreds of thousands of students are currently taking distance education courses that utilize a variety of methods of delivering instructions from the most basic (print) to the most technologically sophisticated (Internet).

Currently, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and the implementing regulations contain provisions that restrict or limit the provision of Title IV Student Financial Assistance in distance education programs. These include limitations on the amount of distance education (telecommunications and correspondence courses) an institution may offer and retain its eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs. Also, requirements relating to program length are very difficult to apply in programs that are self-paced or offered in time frames that deviate from standard semesters or quarters.

The Program

The Distance Education Demonstration Program is not a grant program. It was authorized in the 1998 Higher Education Amendments to determine the statutory and regulatory requirements that should be altered to provide greater access to distance education programs. In authorizing the Program, the Congress recognized the importance of the growing trend toward distance education as an option to on-campus study and its potential for increasing access for some groups of students. At the same time, the Congress wished to proceed cautiously in amending the statute. Most of the restrictions on the growth of distance education were placed in the HEA in response to perceived abuses of Title IV Student Financial Assistance, particularly abuses relating to program quality. As a result, the legislation establishes that a primary purpose of the program is to test the quality and viability of expanded distance education.

The program legislation authorized the Secretary to waive specified statutory and regulatory requirements for up to 15 participants selected in the first year of the program, which began on July 1, 1999. Additional participants were selected to join the program in its third year, beginning July 1, 2001 and again in December 1, 2003. One participant was removed from the program and five, including two large state systems, have discontinued their participation. A total of 30 participants (over 100 individual institutions) have been involved in the program since 1999. There are currently 24 participants (60 institutions).

Program Administration

A team of staff from Office of Postsecondary Education and Office of Student Financial Assistance administers the Program. The Office of Postsecondary Education, as the office responsible for the development of Title IV Student Financial Assistance policy, provides the Program leadership.

More Information

Detailed information concerning the program and participants, as well as resources that may be of interest may be found in the links on this page.

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Last Modified: 06/12/2014