Delaware joins SARA, enhances distance education access for colleges, students
Delaware has been approved by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to join the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). SARA, a nationwide initiative that makes regulating and participating in interstate distance education easier, also helps to ensure quality distance education courses are accessible to students across state lines.
The goal of SARA is to ease the process for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in other states. Students are able to vet accredited distance education by looking for the NC-SARA logo. At the same time, colleges and universities save time and money by no longer having to apply to and pay fees for each state in which they offer distance education to that other state’s residents. Instead, a college or university is only responsible for one application and annual fee to SARA.
Delaware’s membership to SARA has local colleges and universities planning to expand course offerings and reach broader audiences with the time and money they save.
“We will save hundreds of hours of staff time as a SARA participant,” Wilmington University Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Jim Wilson said. “By joining this multi-state agreement, access to our online educational offerings can expand with less administrative time and cost to Wilmington University.”
The University of Delaware also plans to continue to expand the number and range of graduate and professional degrees available through e-learning.
“Membership in SARA will enable the university to bring its nationally recognized programs to a broader audience of working adult learners,” Associate Vice Provost of Professional & Continuing Studies and Online Initiatives James K. Broomall said. “Through SARA the cost in financial and human resources is decreased, which enables the University of Delaware to offer programs of the highest academic quality at a competitive cost.”
SARA centralizes the authorization process with one application available at www.doe.k12.de.us/sara. Through SARA, degree-granting institutions in Delaware and those that want to offer distance education courses to Delaware students seek approval from the Delaware Department of Education to offer distance learning. This application process helps reduce the availability of online programs that are not accredited as well as “diploma mills.” Once approved, institutions are able to offer their online programs in other participating SARA states without seeking independent authorization from each SARA participating state.
Serving as Delaware’s “portal” agency for approving distance education providers, the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Higher Education will oversee the process for any of Delaware’s public and private institutions that apply. In addition to UD and Wilmington University, the colleges that have already expressed interest in joining SARA are Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College, and Wesley College. The department will also manage the process for student complaints regarding online education programs.
“Joining SARA is about expanding opportunities for Delaware students,” Delaware Chief Academic Officer Michael Watson said. “Colleges are able to broaden their offerings and lower the cost of high-quality, post-secondary education to better meet the needs of both their traditional and also their non-traditional students.”
Delaware joins 42 other states as members of SARA. Participating in SARA is entirely voluntary for states and institutions. SARA agreements are overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and are being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts: the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).