Schools and Colleges

Syracuse University makes effort to simplify online program authorization through national group

Kiran Ramsey | Senior Design Editor

SU is currently in the process of applying to become a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement institution.

Syracuse University recently completed the first step in becoming an institution in an agreement that would authorize its online programs in 47 states.

The United States Department of Education issued its final rule last month on regulation of interstate distance education, securing the future of agreements like the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. But the ruling could face opposition and a potential repeal in the Republican-held Congress.

SU is currently in the process of applying to become a SARA institution, said Maureen Breed, the special assistant to the associate provost for academic programs.

“So that’s actually very big for us both in terms of costs and effort because once you’re a SARA institution, you only need to do your one application, the annual renewal, instead of having to do that in multiple and paying varying fees in multiple states,” she said.

For an institution to offer online programs in another state, it must gain the approval of the state the institution is not physically located in. The SARA agreement, made up of more than 1,300 institutions in four regional groups, is a way to streamline this process. The agreement looks to “make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state,” per its website.

Amy McHale, the assistant dean for master’s programs at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, said the university pursued authorization in states while the fate of SARA was unknown. She said that SU was already authorized in nearly every state.

Each state always regulates higher education within its boundaries, and this regulation grew to include online programs. Breed said the regulations used to only apply to “bricks and mortar” institutions in other states, like SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs program in Washington, D.C.

SARA is comprised of four different regional groups: the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

New York is a member of the New England Board of Higher Education. The board voted Dec. 5 to add the states of New Jersey and New York to SARA, with Connecticut following Dec. 9.

So far, there are 10 New York institutions that are part of the agreement: Clarkson University, Excelsior College, Fordham University, Houghton College, New York Chiropractic College, State University of New York College of Technology at Delhi, The College of Saint Rose, The College of Westchester, University of Rochester and Utica College.

“(SARA) should kind of make the process go easier in terms of renewals,” McHale said. “Any new programs that come on from SU, they should be able to use the fact that we’re a member of SARA.”

McHale added that she doesn’t think the rule’s potential repeal will be an issue.

“SU has been very proactive about making sure that we have this in place regardless of what that regulation finally says,” she said.

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