FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Board Of Regents Approves New York's Participation In Reciprocity Agreement For Distance Learning With Other States
Regents Set Quality and Accountability Standards for Institutes of Higher Learning Offer Online Courses to New York State Residents
The New York State Board of Regents today approved regulations to allow New York higher education institutions to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). The regulations also permit out-of-state institutions to provide distance education to New York State residents, providing standards and safeguards for New York students taking online courses offered by out-of-state entities.
Through the SARA agreement, the State Education Department will review and approve New York State institutions of higher education (IHEs) to offer credit-bearing, post-secondary distance education in other SARA states consistent with SARA requirements. In addition, under the terms of SARA, out-of-state IHEs offering online courses to New Yorkers will be required to be approved by their home state and meet the SARA requirements. These institutions will need to be accredited by an accreditor authorized by the U.S. Department of Education and must demonstrate to USDE that they have the financial resources to provide high-quality distance education to New York State residents. The new regulations also provide a pathway for out-of-state institutions that do not participate in SARA to be approved by the State Education Department to provide post-secondary distance education to New York State residents, provided that they meet the same standards.
“As a member of the reciprocity agreement, New York’s institutions of higher learning will save much-needed resources by only having to pay for SARA approval and participation once in New York State rather than individually to each state in which they would like to do business,” State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “Savings for higher education institutions can help bring down costs for students as well as provide safeguards in the online marketplace.”
Consistent with legislation passed unanimously and signed by the Governor last year, which authorized the State Education Department to enter into this interstate reciprocity agreement, the Department will hire staff to implement SARA and formally apply to participate in SARA. When the Department joins SARA, it will begin accepting applications from New York State IHEs for voluntary participation in SARA. Once New York State institutions apply and are approved by the Department for participation in SARA, they will be authorized to offer their registered distance education programs in all other states that are participating in SARA without any additional costs in any of the other states in which they wish to operate. There are currently 42 states and territories participating in SARA.
Many states require detailed approval and review processes and annual fees amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, or more, for New York State IHEs seeking to offer distance education to their residents. New York State, on the other hand, has not previously required out-of-state institutions of higher education to be approved to offer distance education to New York State residents. Thus, while it is currently costly and cumbersome for New York State’s IHEs to offer distance education in other states, it is disproportionately easy for out-of-state IHEs to offer distance education to New York State residents without any initial screening or quality assurance approvals required.
Through participation in SARA and the implementation of the new regulations, New York State is establishing a multi-layered approach to quality assurance and consumer protection in New York State. SARA sets minimum quality standards for the provision of post-secondary distance education where there were previously none.
New York State students who are currently enrolled in out-of-state distance education programs will not be negatively affected by the new regulations. Information for students and guidance for out-of-state IHE’s, is being developed and will be posted on the Department’s website. Questions can be directed to: IHEauthorize@nysed.gov.
The proposed amendment was discussed by the Board of Regents at its April 2016 meeting. A Notice of Proposed Rule Making was published in the State Register on May 4, 2016 with public comment accepted through June 18.
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