On March 14, 2016, Gov. Nikki Haley signed H. 4639 authorizing the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to enter into interstate reciprocity agreements to include, but not limited to, the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
Presently, when a college or university offers distance education programs and a potential student from another state wants to enroll, the institution is required by law in many states to seek institutional approval (i.e., authorization) in the student’s home state in order to enroll that student. Many states also require institutions to seek authorization for students pursuing internships, clinical placements, or field experiential learning opportunities. Failure to comply with state authorization may result in loss of Title IV (federal financial aid) participation by the institution. The state-by-state application process can be extensive and very costly.
The purpose of SARA is to afford an efficient system for accredited degree-granting institutions offering distance education or student placement to receive authorization from states other than their home state, by placing the responsibility for regulation, quality assurance, and student protection on the institution’s home state.
SARA is an inter-state reciprocity agreement that allows member states to recognize each other’s participating institutions as eligible to enroll students in their distance education programs and to place students at experiential learning sites. Thirty-six states are currently members of NC-SARA (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements), and more, like South Carolina, are expected to join by July 1, 2016.
SARA is a voluntary agreement among member states and US territories that establishes comparable standards for interstate offering of postsecondary courses and programs through distance education. No institution is required to join SARA; however, participation in SARA is limited to institutions that are home headquartered in a member state.
To participate, individual institutions pay an annual fee to NC-SARA and also to the state portal agency. Cumulative costs paid by individual institutions in SC for authorization in other states far exceed what each institution would expect to pay to NC-SARA and the state to participate.
SCICU will be working with the public colleges and universities and CHE on the many implementation details such as the application process, fees, bonds, student complaints, and reporting requirements.