The Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education

Return to State Authorization of Postsecondary Education

Symposium on Implementation of a
State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

April 16-17, 2013
Indianapolis, Indiana

Following the release of the final report of the Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education (the Commission), representatives from 47 states met in Indianapolis, IN to learn about the Commission’s recommendations and to discuss next steps. Co-convened by the Presidents’ Forum and the Council of State Governments, in collaboration with the Commission and the four regional higher education compacts (WICHE, SREB, NEBHE, and MHEC), the Reciprocity Symposium provided state teams the opportunity to examine and discuss the implementation processes required of states, institutions, authorization agencies, and accreditors to make the Commission’s recommendations a reality. State teams also had the opportunity to meet in region-specific breakout groups to discuss implementation issues.

Final Report of The Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education

On April 11, 2013, in a move that will help transform the delivery of distance learning, a diverse group of higher education and state leaders, accreditors, and regulators led by former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley unveiled plans for a new interstate reciprocity system that will significantly streamline regulations and allow universities and colleges to more easily offer online courses across the country. The Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education’s final report, “Advancing Access through Regulatory Reform: Findings, Principles, and Recommendations for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA),” seeks to free higher education institutions from the maze of costly, inefficient, and inconsistent regulations and laws in different states (which often make it difficult to offer online courses to students who reside outside an institution’s home state) by proposing a single set of baseline standards and procedures to both regulate distance education programs and ensure consumer protection. The Commission’s interstate reciprocity system will ensure institutions can easily operate distance education programs in multiple states as long as they meet the regulatory requirements of their home state, which will include standards dealing with institutional quality, consumer protection, and institutional financial responsibility. To promptly move forward with implementation of the Commission’s work, the Presidents' Forum and the Council of State Governments hosted 47 state teams at a Reciprocity Symposium in Indianapolis on April 16-17, 2013 to discuss the recommendations and corresponding next steps.


Former U. S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and 20 other leaders have been invited to explore the regulation of postsecondary distance education on a new national commission organized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). The Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education will invite testimony and information, and develop recommendations, to address the regulatory costs and inefficiencies faced by postsecondary institutions that must comply with multiple and often inconsistent state laws and regulations when providing educational opportunities in multiple state jurisdictions.

APLU, SHEEO, Education Counsel and many others collaborated in organizing the Commission in order to provide a setting for all the interested parties to consider the issues and make practical recommendations that might be widely adopted. APLU President Peter McPherson and SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter will both serve on the Commission and will assist Secretary Riley in leading its work.


Establishing the Commission

Commission Meetings

Commission Resources