Key Attributes of SARA

  • Voluntary for states and institutions.
  • Acknowledges the traditional roles within higher education’s “accountability triad”: federal government, states, and accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Lays out a framework for state-level reciprocity, including a governance structure, implementation by the four regional higher education compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB, WICHE), a National Council for SARA to ensure comprehensive national coverage, and a financial plan to support operations.
  • Requires states to approve their in-state institutions for SARA participation (based upon institutional accreditation and financial stability) and resolve student complaints.
  • SARA states agree to impose no additional (non-SARA) requirements on institutions from other SARA states.
  • Open to degree-granting postsecondary institutions from all sectors: public colleges and universities; independent institutions, both non-profit and for-profit.
  • Participating institutions will agree to follow the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs (Online Learning) for best practices in postsecondary distance education developed by leading practitioners of distance education and adopted by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC).
  • Sets forth a reasonable, uniform set of triggers of “physical presence”.
  • Preserves state approval and oversight of on-the-ground campuses.
  • Shifts principal oversight responsibilities from the state in which the distance education is being received to the “home state” of the institution offering the instruction. The host state (where the student resides) can also work to resolve problems.
  • Initial funding from Lumina Foundation and additional funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, eventual reliance on institutional fees paid to the National Council for SARA.