A federal rule might force colleges to withdraw from states with small populations.

Members of an influential online-learning task force said states should create uniform standards for online colleges and universities, making it easier for institutions to comply with a federal rule that will prove costly and confusing to web-based schools.

The Education Department’s (ED) state authorization rule, scheduled to take effect July 1, would force online colleges to seek authorization from agencies in every state where their students are enrolled.

Higher-education officials have said this requirement wouldn’t just be cumbersome for online schools; it could encourage colleges to withdraw from many states, especially states with small populations.

Funded by a $300,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education, officials from Excelsior College and the Council of State Governments released a white paper May 16 endorsing an “interstate reciprocity compact” that would streamline the process of getting state-by-state approval.

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