Despite a surge of regulations in the 1980s designed to prevent fraudulent use of financial aid funds for online courses, the Department of Education still struggles to balance consumer protections with a growing need for short-term and distance education to offer student aid, according to a report released Wednesday by higher education policy advocates.

The report — authored by the Online Learning Consortium, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association — argues that education policies are failing to support a rapidly evolving higher education system.

“The nature of higher education, especially credentialing programs, has significantly changed in the last two decades,” the report reads. Yet a chief obstacle to the accessibility of such programs, it says, is the lack of federal financial aid available.

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