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N.D. approved as member of MSARA

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) announced Wednesday that North Dakota was approved as the second member of the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement is a national collaboration among states to streamline state authorization requirements.

“We are pleased to be one of the first states to be approved as part of SARA, and we would like to thank our legislators, board and staff members who helped make this possible,” said Larry Skogen, North Dakota University System interim chancellor. “Online enrollments are on the rise, and it is critical that we help ensure our students have access to high-quality online courses. This agreement does that as well as providing a system of consumer protection for online students and a method for reducing the exorbitant costs for state authorization.”

Currently, institutions of higher education must seek authorization from each individual state in which they currently operate online. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement provides criteria that member institutions must meet in order to provide distance education in other states. Under this agreement, participating states automatically authorize other members to offer distance education in their state, saving them time and authorization fees.

For institutions that deliver online education in many states, the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement will reduce the cost of state authorization by thousands of dollars per year, Skogen said. All participating institutions must be accredited and adhere to a set of best practice guidelines for distance education.

Across the 11 public institutions that make up the NDUS, there were more than 17,500 online course registrations in the fall 2013 — a 7.9 percent increase over a one-year span. Valley City State University, Bismarck State College, Lake Region State College and Minot State University have been approved by NDUS as the first Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement institutions.

“On a national level, North Dakota is seen as a leader in this arena, and we are being contacted by other states who want to learn from us,” said Tanya Spilovoy, NDUS director of distance education and state authorization. “This is a shining moment for higher education in North Dakota.”

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement is funded by a $2.3 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation focused on increasing Americans’ success in higher education. The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement is overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements and is being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts, including MHEC. As of April 7, State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement-enabling legislation has passed in 13 states, legislation is pending in 10 more and five states have determined that no legislation is needed to enable participation.

For more information on the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement and distance education in North Dakota, visit