New Hampshire has been approved by the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) as the first state in the region to join the New England State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (N-SARA).
This state joins 17 others (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, 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.
“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 Division Director Edward R. MacKay, currently serves 26 institutions and provides educational leadership and services which promote equal educational opportunities and quality practices and programs that enable New Hampshire residents to become fully productive members of society.
“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,” said MacKay. “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.”
New Hampshire has targeted January 15, 2015, as the effective operational date when the state will begin accepting institutional applications for participation in SARA.
“Kudos to New Hampshire for being the first New England state to adopt this innovation to create greater access for students,” said Ed Klonoski, president of Charter Oak State College in Connecticut and a member of NEBHE’s SARA Regional Steering Committee.
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.
“It is wonderful to have New Hampshire join SARA as the first member state in the New England region and we look forward to having their institutions participate in the initiative. 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,” explained Marshall A. Hill, executive director of NC-SARA.
As of December 15, 2014, SARA-enabling legislation has passed in an additional seven states and three states have determined that no legislation is needed to enable participation in SARA.