AUGUSTA – Maine is now the 36th state to join the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), an initiative that will make distance-education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for institutions to participate in interstate distance education.
SARA is an agreement among its member states, districts and U.S. territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs. Maine’s Acting Education Commissioner, Bill Beardsley says, “SARA facilitates Maine’s interface with education opportunities across the country while bypassing the old case-by-case burdensome course approval system. Maine students benefit and state red tape is minimized with no loss of accountability. It is a state consortium approach we value.”
The Maine Department of Education will start accepting SARA applications from institutions of higher education beginning December 1, 2015.
Participation in SARA was approved in the statute by the 127th Maine Legislature, allowing the State Board of Education to enter into the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) regional compact, designating Maine DOE as the portal agency for SARA.
Benefits for the student:
- Expands access to educational offerings
- Extends consumer protection provisions to students enrolled in courses or degree programs from postsecondary institutions in participating states
- Makes distance-education courses more accessible across state lines
- Reduces institutional costs sometimes passed along to students
- Enhances overall quality of distance education
- Earn a degree from an out of state, SARA participating, institution without regulatory hassle
Benefits to Maine’s institutions of higher education:
- Increases enrollment for online programs
- Experience cost savings in regulatory application fees
- Operate in other participating SARA states without seeking independent authorization from those states
- Approval to participate in SARA from one agency-The Maine State Board of Education
- Voluntary involvement
Benefits to Maine:
- Ease of regulating institutions to participate in interstate distance education
- Collaboration in promoting online learning
- Nationally recognized for rigorous and academic savvy institutions of higher education
- Out of state online distance learners
Maine institutions of higher education need only apply for SARA authorization through The New England Board of Higher Education and after December 1, through the Maine Department of Education, only after receiving approval from the Maine State Board of Education.
Institutions pay fees based on the full time equivalent (FTE) enrollment. Between now and December 1, applications for institutions are available at NC-SARA.