Can Online Programs Enroll Students Outside the U.S.?

Red arrow pointing up next to the words "higher risk: licensure, on-ground placement, active recruiting, physical presence." Grey arrow pointing down next to the words "Lower Risk: 100% Online, non-licensure, no physical presence."

Compliance with state authorization regulations is important because it allows students to use their education where they live. The Office of Distance Education and eLearning’s state authorization team researches requirements for The Ohio State University to offer distance education programs in all 50 states, but the team is not able to make determinations about authorization outside the U.S.

Here are the factors you and your college or department should consider when deciding whether to enroll an international student in an online program:

I know that distance education laws are different in every U.S. state. Do foreign countries also regulate distance education?

Not all countries regulate distance education, and for those that do, requirements vary by country. Some countries regulate distance education nationally, but there may also be regulations at the state or province level.

Some countries, such as China and India, allow foreign institutions to offer online programs, but the country's Ministry of Education will not recognize online credentials. In those countries, students would not be able to use a credential earned online to seek employment in the public sector.

In addition, programs and students should be aware of potential tax consequences resulting from international online enrollments. Many countries require students to withhold taxes on tuition payments made to U.S. institutions.

How can I learn more about whether a particular country regulates distance education?

Language barriers and other factors add complexity to international research. Units should reach out to the state authorization team for guidance on conducting international research. In addition to researching country requirements, units should consider risk factors before enrolling a student located outside the U.S. in an Ohio State online program.

That makes sense. What are the risk factors I should consider before enrolling an international student in an online program?

Certain factors increase institutional risks in this area. Many foreign jurisdictions do not require approval to offer 100 percent online degree programs, so fully online programs with no on-ground internship or clinical requirements carry a lower risk.

In contrast, a physical presence in the country, such as on-site faculty, may trigger approval requirements, so those types of programs carry a higher risk. Programs in a licensure field, such as a medical profession, are also higher risk because the program may not meet the country’s educational requirements for licensure.

More risk factors and regulatory considerations are listed on the faculty and staff state authorization website.

OK, got it! Is there information I can share with prospective students so they are aware of any risks associated with international authorization?

Yes! Please share the following disclosure with prospective online students located outside the United States prior to enrollment:

“A country may or may not regulate distance education provided to students in its jurisdiction and may or may not require foreign higher education institutions to comply with distance education regulations. At this time, The Ohio State University cannot guarantee that a program meets curriculum requirements in your country.”

If you have additional questions about international online enrollment considerations, contact the state authorization team.