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State-level responses to U.S. federal policy on state authorization for higher education


  • Rebecca S. Natow Hofstra University
  • Vikash Reddy Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Victoria Ioannou Queens College, City University of New York



state authorization, higher education policy, intermediary organizations, policy implementation, federalism


In the United States, higher education institutions must be authorized as postsecondary education providers – through a process known as state authorization – to be eligible to receive federal student financial aid funds. Through state authorization policies, state governments play a key role in maintaining accountability for higher education. Since 2010, the federal government has issued a series of significant reforms on postsecondary state authorization; yet little is known about how state-level officials implement these policies. The purpose of this multi-case study was to analyze the experiences of five states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) responding to federal policy on postsecondary state authorization. Through semi-structured interviews with 25 officials across the five states and analysis of policy-relevant documents, this study found much consistency in the ways policy actors responded to federal state authorization policies. This study also found that states’ implementation of these policies was challenged by insufficient staff capacity, limited communications with the federal department of education, complexity of federal policies, and high compliance costs. Intermediary organizations and policy actors’ networks played important roles in many aspects of states’ responses to the policies.


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Author Biographies

Rebecca S. Natow, Hofstra University

Rebecca S. Natow is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy and Director of the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies Program at Hofstra University.  

Vikash Reddy, Campaign for College Opportunity

Vikash Reddy is Vice President of Research in the Los Angeles Office of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Victoria Ioannou, Queens College, City University of New York

Victoria Ioannou is Alumni Engagement Manager at Queens College of the City University of New York.


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How to Cite

Natow, R. S., Reddy, V., & Ioannou, V. (2023). State-level responses to U.S. federal policy on state authorization for higher education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 31.