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Education Dept. Clarifies Rule Governing Online Courses

The Education Department on Thursday clarified a key piece of a new distance-education regulation, making it clearer that the reciprocity agreement known as SARA, under which more than 1,300 colleges have already been approved to offer online courses across state lines, would satisfy the new regulation.

The clarification removes the question mark over the legality of those colleges’ programs.

In a blog post about the department’s action, Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, said he and Marshall Hill of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, were “overjoyed” by the news, which came in the waning hours of the tenure of Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education in the Obama administration.

Although it’s unclear if the department’s regulation will stand — Republicans in Congress may seek to revoke it in the coming weeks — the clarification also gives a boost to SARA, which has been adopted by the District of Columbia and all states except California, Florida, and Massachusetts.

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