House passes Pollet bill to protect Washington students in online college programs.

OLYMPIA – The Washington House of Representatives passed legislation that will ensure online, out-of-state institutions must meet the same transparency requirements as Washington higher education institutions. 

Current law allows for students to file complaints with the Washington Student Achievement Council if universities or colleges misrepresent educational programs, accreditation, job placement statistics, or student debt and earnings measurements. Out-of-state online schools have claimed that this law does not currently apply to them, creating a group of Washington students without protections. House Bill 2164, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, aims to correct this issue. 

“In today’s higher education landscape, more and more students are getting degrees from online universities which can help reduce cost and accommodate working schedules,” said Pollet. “These students deserve every bit of protection and transparency that we provide other Washington students, regardless of where their school is based. It’s time we fix that.” 

Under the bill, Washington can ensure interstate cooperation with higher education institutions happens on a level playing field that prioritizes the well-being of Washington students. 

The bill reflects findings of the US Department of Education. These findings highlight an interstate agreement that disadvantages states with strong student consumer protection laws. This agreement prevents them from investigating student complaints against out-of-state online institutions, like Washington. 

The Department of Education also found that enforcing standards may violate federal rules and jeopardize Washington State’s authorization to provide federal financial aid.  

House Bill 2164 fixes these problems. 

With a unanimous vote, House Bill 2164 moves to the Senate for further consideration. This year’s 60-day short session ends on March 7.