Highlights from the National Meeting on State Authorization Reciprocity
Published by: WCET | 4/18/2013
A national meeting on next steps in state reciprocity was held in Indianapolis on April 16 and 17. The purpose of the event was to serve as an initial introduction to representatives from each state about next steps in reciprocity.
The session focused on the report: Advancing Access through Regulatory Reform: Findings, Principles, and Recommendations for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) that was recently released by the Commission on the Regulation on Postsecondary Distance Education. The Commission, which is a committee formed by APLU (the land-grant universities) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, built upon the work of previous efforts of the Presidents’ Forum/Council of State Governments and the regional higher education compacts. You can see a short history of state authorization and the reciprocity efforts on our web page.
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation, the meeting attendees included representatives from 47 states. Delaware, Hawaii, and New York were not represented. While they did not send participants, we know that there was interest in the first two of those states in participating. Others in attendance to this invitational event included those who had involvement in shaping the reciprocity language.
The report is meant to be a framework for reciprocity with additional provisions to be detailed in the final SARA wording. The meeting started with several introductory sessions presenting the principles outlined in the report.
A letter was read from Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, lending her support to reciprocity. Hal Plotkin of the U.S. Department of Education had the most memorable metaphor of the night, which you can ask me about later. While the Department of Education cannot formally endorse the work, he brought a two-word message from the Secretary Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Martha Kanter: “thank you.”
Some Questions that Arose
If they can receive foundation support to begin the effort, the regional higher education compacts (Midwestern Higher Education Compact, New England Board of Higher Education, Southern Regional Education Board, and Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) will be charged with jointly implementing the agreement in as seamless a way as possible. Regional sessions were held to cover additional fine points of reciprocity and to gather comments and questions from participants. There were many items on which there were agreement and many questions were raised. David Longanecker, president of WICHE, highlighted a few in a final plenary session:
Again, these are all questions. Some reflect items on which this is considerable work, but either additional details, subtle nuances, or more justification is needed. A few of the items will need much more work.
Recordings of the meeting will be made available in the next few weeks. When I receive the links, I will post them to the blog. Watch for additional follow-up information from the Presidents’ Forum and the Commission.
The regional compacts are very optimistic about receiving grant support to move forward on this work. Once they do, they will hire staff and hold regional meetings to discuss these issues.
Finally, A Note about Tone
While much of the meeting was very positive, there was significant regulator bashing during the meeting. Some of those with regulatory roles let me know of their displeasure.
While there are regulations that are real head-scratchers, there is real purpose behind many of these regulations. We should not paint everyone charged with overseeing authorization in the states with the same brush. They are charged with upholding their laws. They are charged with protecting students.
Reciprocity is asking them to make significant changes in their work, to go out on a limb and trust others, and to accept the risk of those changes. Since they will face much of the impact, the least the rest of us can do is respect them and listen to them.
Deputy Director, Research and Anaylsis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
Support our work! Join WCET.