Kansas and Missouri were approved by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) on November 16, 2014, to join the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA).
These states join 15 others (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, 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.
“This is such an exciting time at the Compact with more states becoming a part of SARA,” said Mr. Larry Isaak, MHEC president. “We expect to receive more state applications by year end and the total number of states nationally to join the agreement is likely to be twenty by that time.”
The Kansas Board of Regents will serve as the state “portal” agency for SARA. The Board coordinates the state’s 32 public higher education institutions (six state universities, one municipal university, nineteen community colleges, and six technical colleges) along with administering the state’s student financial aid, adult education, high school equivalency, and career and technical education programs, while also regulating all out-of-state and private postsecondary institutions who wish to operate in Kansas.
"We believe that the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) will help reduce the cost of providing online instruction, broaden course offerings for Kansans, and enhance interstate cooperation," said Dr. Andy Tompkins, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Serving as Missouri’s “portal” agency is the Missouri Department of Higher Education, which serves more than 450,000 students through 13 public four-year universities, 20 public two-year colleges, one public two-year technical college, 25 independent colleges and universities and more than 155 proprietary and private career schools.
“The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement puts important measures in place that will help expand higher education opportunities for Missouri students. SARA will enable us to streamline the process of offering online education for our state’s colleges and universities and strengthen our oversight of online education programs,” said Dr. David Russell, Missouri commissioner of higher education.
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.
“This progress in the initiative illustrates the importance of SARA in providing a streamlined alternative to the state-by-state approach institutions must currently follow to gain needed authorizations to serve students in states other than their own,” explained Marshall A. Hill, executive director of NC-SARA.
As of November 14, 2014, SARA-enabling legislation has passed in an additional eight states and three states have determined that no legislation is needed to enable participation in SARA.