Online postsecondary distance education for Michigan students just got a lot better, along with streamlined regulation for colleges and universities, with the State of Michigan joining a new national reciprocity agreement under the enactment of Public Act 45 of 2015.
Michigan now has joined the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA) with approval from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) resulting in streamlined regulation and greater student access to quality programs. SARA is an agreement among member states that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It allows states to accept each other’s authorization without the need for further expense, paperwork and red tape on the part of the institution.
“The State of Michigan is pleased to join the SARA initiative as it will expand and enhance educational opportunities for our citizens,” said Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Chief Deputy Director Shelly Edgerton. “It will enable all of our postsecondary institutions to focus on providing quality and affordable educational opportunities.”
LARA serves as the state “portal” agency for Michigan and as the single point of contact for all Michigan institutions participating in SARA. Institutions approved by LARA will be listed at both: https://www.lara.michigan.gov/colaLicVerify/ and on the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements at www.nc-sara.org
The state-level reciprocity and credentialing process that makes state authorization more efficient, effective and uniform with regard to standards of practice that could span several states; establishes and upholds quality standards in online/distance education offerings; and is less costly for states and institutions, and thereby the students they serve. The state in which the institution is physically located authorizes the institution to provide distance education programs to residents of other SARA states with little or no additional regulation and at no additional costs.
According to Edgerton, PA 45 of 2015, the Higher Education Authorization and Distance Education Reciprocal Exchange Act, provides for the reciprocal exchange of distance education between Michigan and other states or a higher education compact such as SARA. Students can now be assured of access to, and quality of, their distance education provider, and should there be difficulties, students now have a complaint process available to them through the State.
“This has been a very collaborative process and we appreciated the opportunity to work with the bill sponsor, Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and the higher education associations: Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, the Michigan Independent Colleges & Universities, and the Michigan Community College Association,” said Edgerton.
LARA’s Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing bureau has had the oversight responsibility of approving new and expanding non-public colleges, universities and trade schools to operate within Michigan (under 327 PA of 1931 or 148 PA of 1943).
Prior to gaining acceptance into the reciprocity agreement, Michigan was one of several states that did not regulate distance education providers as those not located within Michigan were not required to register or seek approval to offer online education courses to Michigan residents. LARA had received more than 1,500 inquiries from out-of-state institutions requesting approval or exemption to offer distance education to Michigan residents.
Michigan is the 10th state to join the Midwest regional education compact and is the 29th state nationally, to join the agreement.