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North Dakota Second State in the Nation to Sign Distance Education Agreement

Posted on 4/8/2014

For More Information Contact:
Linda Donlin, Director of Communications and
Media Relations
North Dakota University System
Phone: 701.328.2962

Bismarck, ND - The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) announced today that North Dakota was approved as the second member of the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA). SARA is a national collaboration among states to streamline cumbersome and costly 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 North Dakota University System Interim Chancellor Larry C. Skogen. "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. SARA provides criteria that member institutions must meet in order to provide distance education in other states. Under this agreement, participating states then 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 SARA agreement will reduce the cost of state authorization by thousands of dollars per year. 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 NDUS, there were over 17,500 online course registrations in the Fall 2013 term - 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 M-SARA 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."

SARA 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 SARA agreements are overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and are being implemented by the four regional higher education interstate compacts, including MHEC. As of April 7, 2014, SARA-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 SARA agreement and distance education in North Dakota, visit

Bismarck State CollegeDakota College at BottineauDickinson State UniversityLake Region State CollegeMayville State UniversityMinot State UniversityNorth Dakota State College of ScienceNorth Dakota State UniversityUniversity of North DakotaValley City State UniversityWilliston State College
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