The American Council on Education (ACE) is pushing for standards for recognizing online degree programs across different states. Implementing uniform national standards would protect students and make sure institutions provide a quality education.
Each state conducts oversight and regulation of its postsecondary education, but each also deals differently with out-of-state institutions. In addition, institutions that enroll out-of-state students online must adhere to a variety of agencies and requirements that can be cumbersome and costly.
In the paper A More Uniform Way of Recognizing OnlineDegree Programs Across State Lines, with SARA as a Focus, ACE suggested that the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) provide a solution because it would be similar to the way drivers’ licenses are recognized across different states.
SARA, administered by four regional higher-education groups, is a voluntary program that could help develop reasonable standards and quality for online programs, according to the report. It also found that participating in SARA could lead to lower costs for states and institutions, and, ultimately, students.
“The current process is too varied among the states to ensure consistent consumer protection, too cumbersome and expensive for institutions that seek to provide education across state borders, and too fragmented to support our country’s architecture for quality assurance in higher education—the quality assurance triad of accrediting agencies, the federal government, and the states,” the authors of the report wrote.