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Recognizing Online Degree Programs Across State Lines: Taking a More Uniform Approach

July 29, 2015

Quick Hit SARA

New Quick Hit Paper Released by ACE’s Center for Education Attainment and Innovation

​The process for regulating postsecondary online courses and programs needs to become more uniform nationally in order to safeguard students and ensure that institutions can provide quality education at a reasonable cost, says the latest Quick Hit brief released by ACE’s Center for Education Attainment and Innovation.

The paper, “A More Uniform Way of Recognizing Online Degree Programs Across State Lines, with SARA as a Focus,” notes that a good deal of the oversight and regulation of postsecondary education is carried out by the states, but in markedly different ways; especially in how each state deals with out-of-state-institutions that want to operate within the state. SARA stands for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement that establishes a state-level reciprocity process with comparable national standards and policies for interstate offering of higher education distance-learning courses and programs.

“The current process is too varied among the states to ensure consistent consumer protection, too cumbersome and expensive for institutions that seek to provide education across state borders and too fragmented to support our country’s architecture for quality assurance in higher education—the quality assurance triad of accrediting agencies, the federal government and the states,” according to the paper, the sixth in a series of Quick Hit briefs on current and emerging topics in higher education attainment and innovation.

The paper says that SARA has been designed to fix these problems by relying on state-level reciprocity: “the same concept that keeps us from having to obtain multiple driver’s licenses.”

Click here to read the full paper.

Future briefs in the eight-part series will examine topics such as credit mobility and indirect costs to today’s higher education students.

The Quick Hit series is funded by Lumina Foundation. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ACE.

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