- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont has joined an agreement that will make it easier and cheaper for colleges and universities to provide online courses in other states.

Vermont is among 24 states that have signed a “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement” agreement, known as SARA.

Vermont Public Radio reports (http://bit.ly/1NcQPn6) that the states involved basically trust each other to keep track of the quality of the institutions.

The agreement will also make it easier for other states to offer online education in Vermont.

“We trust the state of Vermont,” said Sandy Doran, New England’s SARA director. “We believe that they have a high quality institution evaluation program, accreditation program, and so we are going to allow Vermont institutions to offer programs to other states without going through an additional state authorization process.”

Cassandra Ryan, the state education official in charge of administering the new agreement, says online programs are required to meet strict criteria to be approved by their states. Any complaints about the programs will be posted on the SARA website, she said. She hopes to hear fewer complaints about unscrupulous institutions.

“We get calls like that all the time, and it’s heartbreaking to hear those stories. So this does offer a little more protection, I think, for folks,” she said.

Institutes must pay a fee to be part of the SARA network but the cost is typically less than the cost of getting approval from many different states.

Vermont’s Education Agency will start accepting applications from colleges and universities wanting to offer online courses out of state.

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