News

Should there be a “driver’s license” for online programs?

By Ron Bethke, eCampus News Assistant Editor, @eCN_RonB
August 5th, 2015

Utilizing the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement could be the key to reaching a national standard on recognizing online degree programs.

online-program-successThe American Council on Education (ACE) has released a new paper on the importance of implementing a standardized approach to recognizing online degree programs across different states.

The paper, titled “A More Uniform Way of Recognizing Online Degree Programs Across State Lines, with SARA as a Focus,” is the sixth in a series of Quick Hit briefs about current and emerging topics in higher education attainment and innovation released by ACE’s Center for Education Attainment and Innovation and funded by the Lumina Foundation.

Essentially, the report argues that the process for regulating postsecondary online courses and programs must become more uniform nationally in order to safeguard students and ensure that institutions can provide quality education at a reasonable cost.

The need for greater national uniformity stems from the fact that much of the oversight and regulation of postsecondary education is carried out by the states. However, each state operates in vastly different ways in regards to this issue, especially when it comes to dealing with out-of-state institutions that want to operate within the state.

Furthermore, each postsecondary institution in the U.S. that enrolls out-of-state students via online or distance education must identify the governmental agencies charged to oversee postsecondary education in all of the states, territories and districts; contact them; and determine and comply with their highly varying requirements. Naturally, says the report, this is too cumbersome and costly for such a rapidly growing field like online education.

“The current process is too varied among the states to ensure consistent consumer protection, too cumbersome and expensive for institutions that seek to provide education across state borders, and too fragmented to support our country’s architecture for quality assurance in higher education—the quality assurance triad of accrediting agencies, the federal government and the states,” says the paper.

(Next page: SARA – the solution?)


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