Ohio has been approved by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) to join the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA).
This state joins 19 others (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia) as members of SARA. SARA is a nationwide initiative 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. The effort is funded by a $3 million grant from Lumina Foundation, $200,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and fees paid by institutions.
“Governor Kasich has made college affordability and accessibility top priorities, and these agreements go a long way toward making higher education more affordable and more accessible for all Ohio students,” said John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.
The Ohio Board of Regents is a cabinet-level agency for the governor of the State of Ohio that oversees higher education for the state and it will serve as the state “portal” agency for SARA. The agency’s main responsibilities include authorizing and approving new degree programs, managing state-funded financial aid programs and developing and advocating policies to maximize higher education’s contributions to the state and its citizens. Representatives from the Ohio Board of Regents will begin accepting institutional participation applications on April 1, 2015. Additional information about SARA is available on the Regents’ website at https://www.ohiohighered.org/academic-program-approval.
“We are very pleased that Ohio has decided to participate in SARA through MHEC,” stated Larry Isaak, MHEC president. “The streamlined SARA process agreed to by states, for regulating online education, improves student access to educational opportunities and will save institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars in regulatory fees.”
The SARA agreements are overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and are being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts: the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). 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.
"Ohio is a welcome addition to the growing number of SARA states nationally," explained Marshall A. Hill, executive director of NC-SARA. "We are glad to have them join us in the initiative. Now with 20 SARA states, benefits for students continues to expand including access to educational offerings, better resolution of complaints, reduced institutional costs, and enhanced overall quality of distance education."
As of March 2, 2015, SARA-enabling legislation has passed in an additional six states and four states have determined that no legislation is needed to enable participation in SARA.