More and more states are signing an interstate agreement that will allow online colleges to offer their courses nationwide, and today, Vermont joined that list. In the past, the process of joining the list of approving states was cumbersome, which made it off-putting or low on the list of priorities for a lot of states. Today, though, the process is becoming increasingly streamlined and encouraging more of our nation to join.
While lots of students like to take advantage of the higher education that is available to them through the internet, what many don’t think about is the measures required to regulate it. Every state has its own subset of standards and regulations, which makes it expensive for schools to make their services available in other states. Now, though, there are 24 states – Vermont being the most recently included – that have signed a “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA),” which will make the whole process a lot less of a headache. It will be easier and cheaper for colleges to get on board with interstate online courses, meaning there will be more colleges offering more services.
States that have signed the SARA are essentially stating that they trust one another to provide quality education. The SARA director of New England, Sandy Doran, says its similar to how each state honors other states’ driver’s licenses. “We trust the state of Vermont,” she says; “We believe that they have a high quality institution evaluation program, accreditation program, and so we are going to allow Vermont institutions to offer programs outside the program to other states without going through an additional state authorization process.” In exchange, other states will have an easier time offering their online courses to students living in Vermont.
Thanks to the SARA, it’s expected that there will be fewer than ever complaints about the institutions offering their services, and any complaints that are founded will be listed on the SARA website. It offers more protection for students and ensures that the high-quality education institutions are the ones to survive.
There is a cost associated with joining the SARA network, but in comparison with becoming compliant with each individual state, it saves the signing states a lot of money. Participation, however, is optional, and this still is not the determining factor of whether college credits are transferable among certain institutions. These are still rules that are decided on a college-by-college basis.