How to Address International Student Inquiries

Have you received an inquiry from a prospective online student located outside the United States? The prospect of international online enrollments continues to raise questions about authorization requirements and other risks.

There are still few clear answers, but one thing is sure: international students need to understand potential risks before enrolling in an online program. Units should discuss these risks with online international students and must share the following disclosure statement 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 or professional licensure requirements in your country.”

International Regulations

Institutions are required to follow the law in the jurisdiction where a student is located. If an online student is located in a foreign country, Ohio State must follow applicable laws in the student’s country.

You may know that the United States regulates distance education at the federal and state level. Similarly, a foreign country may regulate distance education both nationally and at a regional level. Some countries, such as China and India, do allow foreign institutions to offer distance education, but their educational governing bodies do not recognize online credentials. Students in these countries are not able to use an online credential to seek employment in the public sector.

The state authorization team is not able to make authorization determinations in all foreign countries. Preliminary research about regulations in the Canadian provinces and Australia is posted on the faculty and staff state authorization web page. The team will continue to provide country-specific updates as they become available. Units should reach out to the state authorization team for guidance on conducting international research.

In addition to distance education regulations, units should also consider foreign tax requirements, applicable U.S. sanctions, export controls, and data security and privacy laws. Visit the faculty and staff state authorization web page for more resources on these topics.

Professional Licensure Eligibility

Units offering online programs that lead to a professional license or certification should consider whether the program meets educational requirements for a professional license in the student’s country or region. Foreign professional licensing boards may not recognize an online credential earned from a foreign institution. In addition, the online program curriculum may not align with educational requirements for licensure in the student’s country.

International students should be informed of these risks prior to enrollment and should contact their local professional licensing board to determine whether a program will meet educational requirements for licensure in their country.

On-ground Placements

If an on-ground placement or field experience is a requirement for degree completion, units should consider where international students can complete the experience, how the program will provide oversight, and any additional resources required to manage those placements. Programs may have difficulty identifying appropriate placement opportunities or executing affiliation agreements with facilities that are located outside the United States.

Physical Presence

On-ground faculty, classroom spaces, or in-person meeting requirements are more likely to trigger authorization requirements than programs that are offered 100% online. Units should understand that engaging in these trigger activities outside the United States increases institutional risk associated with noncompliance.

If prospective international students contact you about enrollment in an online program, your unit should share this information to ensure they understand any potential risks. Contact the state authorization team with questions.