SARA limits locations for academic opportunities at UF

Objections are only temporary, compliance will be nationwide in five years

By Hannah Dunbar
@hanndunbar

The University of Findlay joined the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) in Aug. 2015. According to nc-sara.org, this agreement makes it easier for students to take distance education courses offered by institutions based in another state. For example, if a student at UF applies for an internship or clinical course in a state that is not SARA approved, UF will not be complying with SARA rules. When this happens, the institution will be faced with a fine said Sara Hingson, director of external academic affairs.

According to Hingson, in order for an institution to participate, its state must participate.

“Before UF could become recognized as a SARA institution, we had to wait for the state of Ohio to get approved,” said Hingson. “The approval required state legislation so there was a process.”

SARA is overseen by a national council that divided the U.S. into four regional education compacts. According to Hingson, UF pays a yearly fee of $8,000 to be a member of SARA. The money is split in half and $4,000 is paid to the state of Ohio and the remaining $4,000 goes to the regional compact.

“The amount of money institutions pay to be a member of SARA is based off of the number of students at each institution,” said Hingson.

The University of Findlay chose to become a SARA state because it was more efficient in terms of cost and time to get an approval from multiple states at one time.

“There are more than 40 states in the U.S. who are recognized,” said Hingson. “In five years, objections to SARA will be a moot point because everyone will be a part of it.”

Hingson said her job is to make sure that the institution is meeting all of its accreditation standards. In order for UF to be in compliance with SARA rules, it is important to understand where students are residing at the time of enrollment. For example, if an adviser is scheduling an online class for a student during the summer, the adviser has to ask the student where he or she will be residing while taking the class.

“Advisers who register students are accountable for what is happening with that student,” said Hingson. “If an adviser registers a student for a class and knows that student is residing in a state that is not SARA-approved, the adviser is making the institution out of compliance.”

If the University of Findlay is out of compliance, there is a fee associated with that and the cost varies from state to state, according to Hingson.

Since becoming a member of SARA, students at UF have been limited to the location of their internships, courses, and online programs. According to Hingson, Weekend College for the occupational therapy and physical therapy programs are greatly impacted by SARA because it limits where students can go for their clinical sites.

“One of the reasons we joined is that the limitations students face are not as great as what would happen if we did not seek the approval of SARA,” said Hingson. “We cannot be out of compliance for these things; it is too detrimental to this University.”

For more information on SARA and state authorizations, please visit https://www.findlay.edu/aboutuf/Stateauthorizations.

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