Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia Join Distance Ed Agreement
Colleges in the Three SREB States Expand Online Program Access Through State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA)
Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia have been approved by the Southern Regional Education Board as the first SREB region states to become members of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). Virginia has an effective operational date of today; Louisiana and West Virginia have an effective operational date of December 1, 2014.
SARA is a collaboration of states nationwide to make distance education easier and safer for students. The effort is funded by a $3 million grant from Lumina Foundation. The nationwide clearinghouse expands distance education offerings for students.
“For many students, online classes are key to graduating, which is critical to state goals to increase college completion rates and build a better educated work force,” says SREB President Dave Spence. “Adult students who juggle other responsibilities when they return to complete degrees stand to benefit in particular.”
SARA makes it easier for states to regulate interstate distance education, and it eliminates approval costs for colleges and universities that are often passed on to students. Institutions in the three SREB states may now join the clearinghouse through the reciprocity agreements.
“Distance education has been like the Wild West, growing so fast that meaningful regulation and student protection has been difficult,” said Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. “This agreement brings some much-needed organization to the process and saves the institutions time and money.”
“Making distance education courses more readily accepted across state lines will help more students progress toward their degrees,” said Dr. Paul L. Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “Our institutions are doing a great job at growing and leveraging online offerings, and West Virginia’s participation in SARA will serve to bolster those forward-looking efforts.”
Nine states outside the SREB region have already signed on to the agreements: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Montana and Washington were approved by their regional higher education compacts earlier this year. More states are expected to join the agreements in this and coming years.
The SARA agreements are overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and are being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts: the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Once a state joins SARA, accredited degree-granting institutions in the state that offer distance education courses can seek approval to participate in SARA from their state. When approved, these institutions will be able to operate in other participating SARA states without seeking independent authorization. Participating in SARA is entirely voluntary for institutions, as it is for states.
“SARA allows states to focus on their home-state institutions, rather than on institutions from many other states,” explained Marshall A. Hill, executive director of NC-SARA. “SARA can help expand educational offerings available to state residents and will significantly reduce costs for institutions that are active in online education, lessening this particular need to raise fees and thereby supporting affordability.”
About NC-SARA, MHEC, NEBHE, SREB, WICHE and Lumina Foundation
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA)
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB and WICHE) and overseen by NC-SARA. States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints.
The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)
The Midwestern Higher Education Compact is a nonprofit regional organization assisting Midwestern states in advancing higher education through interstate cooperation and resource sharing. MHEC seeks to fill its interstate mission through programs that expand postsecondary opportunity and success; promote innovative approaches to improving institutional and system productivity; improve affordability to students and states; and enhance connectivity between higher education and the work place. Member states are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE)
The New England Board of Higher Education promotes greater educational opportunities and services for the residents of New England. It works across the six New England states to engage and assist leaders in the assessment, development, and implementation of sound education practices and policies of regional significance; promote policies, programs, and best practices to assist the states in implementing important regional higher education policies; promote regional cooperation and programs that encourage the efficient use and sharing of educational resources; and provide leadership to strengthen the relationship between higher education and the economic well-being of New England.
The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)
The Southern Regional Education Board works with 16 member states to improve public education at every level, from pre-K through Ph.D. SREB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Atlanta. SREB states currently participate in SREB’s Electronic Campus Regional Reciprocity Agreement, and SREB is working closely with SARA to expand reciprocity nationwide. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and its 16 members work collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West. By promoting innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy among states and institutions, WICHE strengthens higher education’s contributions to the region’s social, economic, and civic life. WICHE’s members include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (the first of the U.S. Pacific territories and freely-associated states to participate).
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025