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Kan. universities could join regional online group

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A bill before the Kansas Legislature would allow the state's universities to streamline efforts to offer online courses to out-of-state students, according to supporters.

The bill would allow the Kansas Board of Regents to join a regional group of states that would establish standards for online courses and authorize the member states to provide online courses in each state. The group is called State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1eEFsVH ).

Current regulations require each school to get approval from each state where it enrolls online students.

State public universities estimate participating in the group would save $529,000 each year.

"The movement to develop regional reciprocity represents a response to the growth of distance education programs and the cost of complying with the regulatory requirements of 50 states," Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the regents, said Thursday.

Several members of the House Appropriations Committee questioned whether joining such a group would allow unreliable universities to offer courses in Kansas.

Sue Maes, dean of continuing education at Kansas State University, said she believed that safeguards in the reciprocity agreement would prevent problems with those types of universities.

The bill would also require members of SARA to have procedures to address student complaints and recover actual costs related to complaints.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com