Expanding student access to online courses among goals of new interstate agreements
In February, Indiana became the first U.S. state to join the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements initiative, or SARA. North Dakota followed suit in April.
Implemented by the nation’s four regional higher-education interstate compacts (including the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in this region), the agreements establish interstate reciprocity in the regulation of postsecondary distance education. They require approval by state legislatures; participation by institutions in each state is voluntary.
For participating institutions, SARA offers multiple potential benefits. For one, it reduces regulatory burdens — not having to seek independent authorization in every state where the postsecondary school’s distance-education courses are being offered. Secondly, these institutions have a broader market (more students) for their online courses. Students in participating states, meanwhile, could have access to more educational offerings.
Four North Dakota institutions and two in Indiana will be the first to participate in the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. SARA is funded by a $2.3 million grant from Lumina Foundation. As of early April, in addition to Indiana and North Dakota, SARA-enabling legislation had been passed in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.