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6/21/2017 General Assembly OKs Gallo, Messier legislation that requires accreditation for ‘distance learning’ institutions
STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) and Rep. Mary Duffy Messier (D-Dist. 62, Pawtucket) that would require accreditation for “distance learning” institutions.

Distance learning is a method of delivering education and instruction, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional classroom setting.

The bill (2017-S 0554, 2017-H 5661) would require accreditation by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education for distance learning institutions to transact business or grant degrees in Rhode Island.

The bill clarifies that higher education institutions may be accredited by their regional accrediting body that is equivalent to the New England Board of Higher Education when they are offering degrees in Rhode Island via distance learning.

The U.S. Department of Education, through its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), estimated that some 5.5 million students took at least one online college course in the fall of 2012. Of that number, about 2.6 million were enrolled in fully online programs. 

The measure, which was introduced at the behest of the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, now moves to the governor’s office.

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).

The House bill is cosponsored by Representatives Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903