State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

More than 6.7 million college students took at least one online course during the 2011-12 school year, making online classes the fastest growing segment in higher education. But while students across the country seem to be rapidly embracing online education, federal and state laws have some catching up to do. States have adopted numerous approaches to authorizing and regulating online higher education over the past two decades. This confusion has limited student access and created an inconsistent regulatory process for institutions seeking approvals to operate in multiple states.

Crady deGolian, Director of CSG's National Center for Interstate Compacts, outlines the top 5 compacts to watch in 2013, including those dealing with the siting of electricity transmission lines, surplus insurance lines, interstate reciprocity regarding online education, and EMS licensing.  

Interstate Compacts to Watch in 2013

Dating back to America’s colonial past, interstate compacts are among the few tools specifically granted to states by the U.S. Constitution. The modern compact provides states with a sophisticated administrative mechanism, allowing interstate collaboration to resolve complex policy challenges.

Compacts, which are governed by the tenets of contract law, give states an enforceable, sustainable and durable tool capable of ensuring permanent change without federal intervention. With more than 215 interstate compacts in existence today and each state belonging to an average of 25 compacts, the legal and historical precedence for the development and use of the tool is considerable.

With growth rates approaching 20 percent, online learning represents the fastest growing segment of the higher education population.  These statistics are only expected to continue climbing as technology continues to improve. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, developed jointly by CSG and The Presidents’ Forum, that aims to promote interstate reciprocity in online and distance learning. 

A draft model interstate agreement was recently released for public review by The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) and The Presidents’ Forum. Known as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), this model agreement, which has been developed jointly by CSG, The Presidents’ Forum, and a drafting team comprised of state regulators and key stakeholders aims to reduce barriers to distance learning by making it more efficient for colleges and universities to offer classes across state lines.  Additionally, the project leadership is working with the existing higher education regional compacts (WICHE, MHEC, NEBHE, and SREB) to promote a unified approach to achieving interstate reciprocity.   Support for the project is provided by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

A drafting team convened jointly by CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts and the Presidents’ Forum is continuing efforts to develop a compact to facilitate interstate reciprocity in distance learning.  A working draft of the compact, known as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), was released earlier this week during a presentation at The National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools (NASASPS) annual meeting. 

The Presidents' Forum and The Council of State Governments' National Center for Interstate Compacts has released a working draft of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). You can find it on the updated NCIC website here along with a PowerPoint presentation discussing the compact.

The compact is the result of a series of both teleconferenced and in-person meetings.  The in-person meetings have been as follows:...

The Council of State Governments' National Center for Interstate Compacts, in conjuction with the Presidents' Forum, and with support from the Lumina Foundation are working to produce a national (but not federal) compact to help states better work together to offer online courses across state lines.  This compact, in its final form, is intended to help students get access to the skills they need to compete in the global economy.  The compact will also help institutions save money by removing redundant regulatory burdens involved with offering courses on a multistate basis and help states develop a more educated and productive workforce.

Enrollment in online courses has increased substantially over the past decade.  Online, educational offerings are flexible and allow students to develop the skills they need to be competitive in the job market even if they cannot regularly attend class and/or are located remotely.  The current, complex regulatory environment in the states inhibits many institutions from delivering these courses across state lines.  CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts, in conjunction with the Presidents’ Forum and with support from the Lumina Foundation, is developing an interstate compact to allow greater reciprocity in online education among the states.

A compact in the works could unlock the power of online education by connecting more students to the degrees they need, even when that instruction is delivered across state lines. Currently, institutions with limited budgets face a patchwork of regulatory hurdles when it comes to offering their curricula in other states, which is preventing many students from acquiring the skills they need because institutions are avoiding the approval processes in the states.