Indiana became the first state to join the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), an initiative which makes it easier for states to regulate and engage in interstate distance education. Distance education is a type of education for students not physically present in a traditional setting like a classroom.
Ken Sauer is a the Senior Associate Commissioner for Research and Academic Affairs with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, whose office oversees distance education initiatives for the state. He says this will have a positive impact on Indiana’s students and institutions.
“This will lead to students having more opportunity for quality education, more choices, as well as some confidence that the education that’s being delivered is quality education,” Sauer said.
According to Sauer, if a student has a complaint about an out-of-state institution that’s offering distance education or an online course or program, they now have an official avenue to pursue that complaint.
Institutions’ lives, he says, will be easier too.
“This is something that will make it easier for those quality providers of distance education to deliver their programs to students throughout the country more easily and without having to pay the high fees,” Sauer said.
According to Sauer, systems regulating distance education vary state to state and often involve considerable paperwork and fees, so streamlining to a national system would be beneficial.
Under NC-SARA, once a state is authorized to participate in the program, the state can invite institutions within their state to apply for membership as well, whether they be public, non-profit, or for-profit institutions.
Within the next few weeks, the Commission will issue a formal invitation to state institutions to apply for membership.
Other states Sauer says are considering joining NC-SARA are North Dakota and Nebraska.