States, Tear Down Your Walls

Sir John Daniel, who has led the British government’s efforts to encourage online learning and open educational resources, once made what is perhaps the most incisive comment about the condition of higher education regulation in the United States. A few months after announcing the end of an effort to create a U.S. Open University modeled on the pioneering Open University he headed in the U.K., Sir John made the following statement to governors of the 50 states: "When I brought the OU to America I thought I would be dealing with one country," he said. "I was mistaken."

As Sir John, and everyone else who seeks to offer postsecondary education in the U.S., soon discovers, America is indeed a nation of states, and the regulation of education is uniquely a prerogative of the 50 states (not to mention the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Native American reservations and assorted islands in the Pacific). The U.S. Constitution’s "Reserved Powers Clause" provides, in paraphrase, that all powers not expressly delegated to the national government are reserved "to the States and the people, respectively."

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