July | August 2017




Streamlining the Authorization of Online Education

By Crady deGolian, Director of CSG National Center for Interstate Compacts
State policymakers can learn more about a compact to streamline the process for authorizing online degree programs across state lines during The Council of State Governments’ 2013 National Conference in Kansas City from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 20.
Drafters of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA as the agreement is called, hope it will increase access to degree attainment and reduce costs for students, states and institutions.
“In order to fully realize the benefits of online education, consistency and uniformity across state laws is necessary,” said Marshall Hill, who has been named the new executive director of the national SARA Council. “While the establishment of uniformity across states and institutions represents a significant change in the traditional delivery model for distance learning programs, institutions, states and students could benefit substantially if consensus can be achieved.”
Session attendees will hear about the need for the agreement, the development process, the specific areas covered by the new interstate agreement, and what steps states and institutions need to take to participate.
In addition to Hill, the session also will feature Paul Shiffman, executive director of The Presidents’ Forum at Excelsior College.
Efforts to implement SARA will begin over the next several months with an eye toward the 2014 state legislative session. Each of the existing higher education regional compacts will assist their member states in ensuring that states wishing to participate in the agreement meet the necessary requirements to join.
The Presidents’ Forum and The Council of State Governments, as part of a grant from the Lumina Foundation, will support these efforts through the development of educational materials intended to help policymakers and institutions understand the goals of the agreement. These materials will be nonpartisan in nature.
In order to participate, states must:
The agreement was developed as a joint effort between the Presidents’ Forum, The Council of State Governments, the Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education, and the four regional higher education compacts—the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
The organizations have worked the past two years to promote a unified and effective framework that would allow institutions to more easily offer distance learning courses across state line, while promoting student interests and consumer protection.
Essential components of the agreement include the following:

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