Online education platform Coursera has been banned in Minnesota because it did not obtain the state’s permission to operate within its borders.
For Coursera, the Minnesota statute in question is intended to protect Minnesota residents from second-rate degree-granting programs. But despite Coursera's partnerships with established universities including Caltech, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, the state’s order has forced the education start-up, which offers free video lectures of university courses, to update its Terms of Service to now include the following statement:
If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t serve everyone that we’d like to yet,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said in an interview. “I think the law applies to our partner universities and not Coursera necessarily, but we’re in a position that we need to protect our partner universities as well.”
While Minnesota's institutional registration and licensing manager George Roedler told Slate that Coursera’s partner institutions can apply for a license from Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education (OHE) and pay a $1,200 annaul registration fee, Ng said the process would put “a significant burden” on its 33 university partners.
"I think that by working with the government, we can serve more students than if worked against it," Ng said, adding that Minnesota is the only state so far that has contacted Coursera about a state-wide ban so far.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company received a written warning in July, and worked with the Minnesota OHE to update its Terms of Service in August, according to Ng. The ban was first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education on Thursday.
“If the government asks us to do certain things, we have to abide by what they say,” Ng said. “I don’t know if they would have taken action, but it is the law.”