N.H. joins national online reciprocity pact
Effort makes it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education
New Hampshire is joining a growing nationwide network of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education.
After a vote by the New England Board of Higher Education, New Hampshire became the first state in New England and the 18th nationally to join the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA.
SARA is funded by a $3 million grant from the Lumina Foundation and $200,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Eventually, annual institutional fees paid directly to the national SARA will fund the initiative moving forward.
Once a state joins SARA, accredited degree-granting institutions in the state that offer distance education courses can seek approval from their state to participate in SARA. When approved, these institutions will be able to operate in other participating SARA states without seeking independent authorization from those states. Participating in SARA is entirely voluntary for institutions, as it is for states.
The SARA agreements are overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements and are being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts: the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the Southern Regional Education Board; the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education; and the New England Board of Higher Education, or NEBHE.
NEBHE administers the agreement for the six New England states that are compact members (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not part of any compact so may choose to participate in SARA via NEBHE.
“SARA is bringing quality assurance and consumer protection in step with the fast-moving world of online learning,” said NEBHE President and CEO Michael K. Thomas. “New Hampshire will be a critical part of an expanding network of proactive states that are working to benefit students and to strengthen institutions’ online program provision.”
New Hampshire’s Higher Education Commission will serve as the state “portal” agency for SARA. The 22-member group, headed by state Higher Education Division Director Edward R. MacKay, currently serves 26 institutions.
According to MacKay, “there has been overwhelming support for the concept of SARA from New Hampshire’s college and university presidents and from the state’s executive branch. We all look forward to making New Hampshire’s high-quality higher education offerings available to more learners, and enabling the efficiencies of the SARA partnership to assist in our efforts to constrain costs.”
Marshall A. Hill, executive director of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, hailed New Hampshire’s entry into the SARA network.
“It is wonderful to have New Hampshire join SARA as the first member state in the New England region,” he said. “Having 18 member states illustrates the importance of SARA in providing a streamlined alternative to the current state-by-state approach of authorization. We are excited about this progress and continued advancements in all four higher education compact regions.”