Monday, Aug 19, 2019

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University approved for state authorization reciprocity

The Ohio Department of Higher Education approved Ohio University’s application to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). The approval lifts some restrictions and requirements on Ohio University operating within other states that also have joined SARA.

Brad Cohen, the senior vice provost for instructional innovation, said participation in SARA will provide greater access to the University’s educational programs.

“Receiving approval from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements positions Ohio University to join member states in reducing the heavy administrative burden of individually managing compliance with each state's unique regulations,” Cohen said. “Now we can readily provide access to our online and distance education programs for students in these states, as well as field experiences in those states for students here.”

Participating in SARA was voluntary but necessary for the University. OHIO won’t need to seek approval from as many states to allow students to take part in distance learning and on-the-ground field experiences, such as internships or other educational activities. SARA currently includes 34 states, and more are planning to join the initiative.

Kia Stone, coordinator of compliance and quality assurance for eLearning OHIO in the Office of Instructional Innovation, said the University will be required to submit applications to states that are not part of SARA; however, the institution will not need to seek authorization approval from other SARA states.

“SARA preserves and maintains the level of quality in state authorization by having a centralized governing body, a low-cost payment structure, and it relies on a common set of standards,” she said. “The University still will need to apply for authorization and pay fees in those states that haven’t voluntarily applied to join SARA.”

Stone said the University will be able to open admissions to online and distance programs for students in Arkansas and Minnesota. This process may take some time to coordinate with admissions and academic departments since online and distance programs were not available to students in those two states for several years due to authorization barriers. Even with approval to operate under SARA, some restrictions may still apply in member states.

“The University may still need to meet a set criteria for certain field experiences in SARA states in order not to trigger physical presence. There will continue to be additional requirements in relation to programs that lead to professional licensure,” she said.

Nursing is an example of a profession with licensure requirements that would need to be approved by other states regardless of an institution’s participation in SARA. For these special circumstances or in cases where students are completing face-to-face field experiences, academic departments will need to notify Stone. She regularly meets with an advisory group to inform the representatives of any changes and proactively discuss issues related to OHIO’s state authorization status.

“The State Authorization Advisory Council has been set up to work on specific issues that arise in different states that may require a change in work flow, policy, risk management, or other areas. Members of this council represent offices and academic units from across the University,” she said.

In addition to regular meetings with the advisory council, Stone maintains a state authorization listserv for individuals interested in receiving notices about changes to the University’s status. To subscribe, visit http://listserv.ohio.edu/mailman/listinfo/state_authorization_update. Questions about Ohio University’s state authorization standing can be directed to Stone at stateauthorization@ohio.edu.