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In Case You Missed It: NC-SARA/ SHEEO Op-Ed Emphasizes Important Role of States in Assuring Distance Ed Quality during COVID

Updated by lwilliams@nc-sara.org on Tue, 07/21/2020 - 07:52
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July 21, 2020                                                                                     media@nc-sara.org

In Case You Missed It: NC-SARA/ SHEEO Op-Ed Emphasizes Important Role of States in Assuring Distance Ed Quality during COVID

Boulder, CONational Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) President and CEO Lori Williams and State Higher Education Executive Officers Association President Rob Anderson penned a new joint op-ed published by Inside Higher Ed that emphasizes the valuable role states must play in assuring postsecondary distance education quality, particularly as the number of students enrolled in distance education spikes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the op-ed, Drs. Williams and Anderson write, “States play a long-standing and vital role in institutional oversight and quality assurance. Higher education is constitutionally the function of state government, and states have a key role in authorizing institutions of higher education to operate within their state, ensuring educational quality and continuously protecting students from waste, fraud and abuse… Recognizing increased distance education opportunities will be integral to any educational strategy moving forward, all states should increase their focus and attention on the authorization and oversight of distance education providers.”

The piece provides an overview of how NC-SARA helps support state oversight of distance education quality and student consumer protections, but also underscores the fact that states must do more to ensure appropriate accountability and quality:

  • The NC-SARA reciprocity agreement requires institutions to meet reasonable quality and consumer protection standards necessary to provide distance learning opportunities across state lines – essentially, an assurance between states that the institution has basic guardrails in place to protect students….
  • Beyond the NC-SARA requirements, it’s a troubling reality that not all states have developed their own systems to evaluate and regulate distance learning programs. States must take ownership over creating effective systems and policies designed to assure distance education quality beyond the baseline standards imposed by NC-SARA. Governors and legislatures need to ensure that their state higher education offices have the resources to implement such systems and policies. Now more than ever, students – whether they know it or not – depend on states to conduct meaningful oversight of higher education institutions.

Drs. Williams and Anderson conclude, “In the increasingly likely scenario that the pandemic continues to create upheaval in higher education this fall, states must make the right investments to ensure the American higher education system – lauded as the best and most innovative postsecondary system in the world – can continue to deliver for students in the face of turmoil.”

To read the full op-ed, click here. To learn more about NC-SARA, visit www.nc-sara.org.

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