Differing state regulations make it much harder for students to take online courses from institutions in other states, according to recommendations from the Commission on the Regulations of Post-Secondary Education. To solve the problem, the commission proposed the adoption of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
The group estimated it can cost a public university $5.5 million to accept distance learners from across the United States and it could cost a community college more than $76,000 to set up a course available to students in five neighboring states.
SARA would address the issues by providing a way for states to standardize the regulations governing online courses, make it easier for colleges and universities to offer them in multiple states, and ensure the quality of those classes for students.
“The approval of SARA has a long way to go once it gets vetted and approved by state legislators, but we are hoping it passes,” Nancy Coleman, director of distance learning at Boston College, told Information Week.
The numbers of students taking distance courses should increase if state legislators adopt the voluntary recommendations, according to Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Currently only Delaware, Hawaii, and New York do not belong to one of the four regional compacts on higher education. The 47 other states met in April to study the report and begin the adoption process.
“We know some states are uneasy about expanding their online offerings,” McPherson said. “It costs a lot to comply with regulations all over the country. This will make it easier.”