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Application approved! UMKC is now a participating SARA institution

Forty-eight.

That’s the number of states (including Washington, DC) that the University of Missouri-Kansas City will soon be able to accept and enroll distance education students from. On June 30, UMKC was accepted as a participating SARA institution. This event marks a milestone in our work of building an eLearning campus of excellence.

Before SARA (the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement), each university had to obtain authorization via the door-to-door approach to offer distance education to residents outside of the home state. Each state had its own unique rules and regulations regarding state authorization. As you can imagine, the process of obtaining authorization or an exemption was a long, arduous, and expensive one.

Enter SARA.NC-SARA approved institution graphic

To date, forty states have joined SARA, which means each participating institution may now enroll students from each of those states into its online programs and courses, as well as allow students (both online and face-to-face) to participate in internships, clinical practicum, externships, and field experiences in those states.

The ability to accept and enroll distance education students from SARA states is not automatic. A number of states do require that each university, regardless of SARA affiliation, register with the Secretary of State before accepting students from that respective state. As the approvals from the Secretaries of State are received, the UMKC Online state authorization map will be updated.

However, with this good news comes great responsibility. With our acceptance into SARA, there are some data points that we must closely track. For example, we must report the number of students enrolled via distance education and who reside outside the state of Missouri. This includes students participating in internships, clinical practicum, externship, or other field experience. This requirement regarding internships applies to both online students as well as the campus-based UMKC students participating in these types of experiences outside of Missouri. SARA stipulates that only 10 students per program may conduct their internships at any one location.

Most important, each institution participating in SARA must abide by the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education. These nine hallmarks of quality for distance education are also implemented by the Higher Learning Commission. The guidelines were developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) to “assist institutions in planning distance education and to provide an assessment framework for institutions already involved in distance and education and for evaluation teams.”

So, what happens if a university doesn’t play by SARA’s rules (and therefore, HLC guidelines)? The institution could no longer be allowed to participate in SARA and have to go back to square one — the door-to-door salesman approach of state authorization. Depending on the infraction, the university could also receive fines, lose accreditation, and more penalties of that nature. See the previous March 2016 blog post for a more in-depth discussion of what can happen to university rule-breakers.

On August 17, the MoKanSan 2016 State Authorization Summit will feature four of the top names in the field of state authorization and distance education tackling the hot topics in the field, including SARA.  For more information on the State Authorization Summit, UMKC’s participation in SARA, or other state authorization issues, please contact Brandie Elliott, State Authorization Coordinator.