MHEC Director of Communications and Marketing
Minneapolis, MN -- Minnesota has been approved by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) as the sixth state to join the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA). Minnesota joins Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota which were approved in 2014. Nationally, Minnesota is the 19th state to join the agreement.
SARA is a nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort is funded by a $3 million grant from Lumina Foundation, a $200,000 grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and fees paid by institutions.
"Minnesota joining SARA not only benefits institutions in our state that offer distance education courses, it also benefits our students," said Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) will serve as the state "portal" agency for SARA. OHE is a cabinet-level state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to postsecondary education. The agency also serves as the state's clearinghouse for data, research and analysis on postsecondary enrollment, financial aid, finance and trends. Representatives from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education will be accepting institutional participation applications on February 15. Information about SARA is available on the OHE website.
OHE has been involved in SARA since its beginning and helped draft the agreement language.
"SARA is being strengthened every day with new states and institutions joining the effort," stated Larry Isaak, MHEC president. "The streamlined process of regulating online education continues to enrich the interstate cooperation between our states and nationally, in turn improving student access to educational opportunities, and saving institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars in regulatory fees."
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. The initiative is administered by the country's four regional higher education compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB and WICHE) and overseen by NC-SARA. States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints.
The Midwestern Higher Education Compact is a nonprofit regional organization assisting Midwestern states in advancing higher education through interstate cooperation and resource sharing. MHEC seeks to fulfill its interstate mission through programs that expand postsecondary opportunity and success; promote inno¬vative approaches to improving institutional and system productivity; improve affordability to students and states; and enhance connectivity between higher education and the workplace. Member states are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The New England Board of Higher Education promotes greater educational opportunities and services for the residents of New England. It works across the six New England states to engage and assist leaders in the assessment, development, and implementation of sound education practices and policies of regional significance; promote policies, programs, and best practices to assist the states in implementing important regional higher education policies; promote regional cooperation and programs that encourage the efficient use and sharing of educational resources; and provide leadership to strengthen the relationship between higher education and the economic well-being of New England.
The Southern Regional Education Board works with 16 member states to improve public educa-tion at every level, from pre-K through Ph.D. SREB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Atlanta. SREB states currently participate in SREB's Electronic Campus Regional Reciprocity Agreement, and SREB is working closely with SARA to expand reciprocity nationwide. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and its 16 members work collabora-tively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West. By promoting innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy among states and institutions, WICHE strengthens higher education's contributions to the region's social, economic, and civic life. WICHE's members include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (the first of the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states to participate).
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina's outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025. For more information logon to www.luminafoundation.org