Fitchburg State

September 11, 2018

FITCHBURG -- Fitchburg State University last month became the first four-year public university in the state to receive clearance to offer online courses to students nationwide, an official said.

The university was approved to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, known as SARA.

SARA is an interstate agreement that allows colleges and universities located in a member state to offer online courses to students located in other SARA member states, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Massachusetts was approved to join SARA on June 7, according to the state higher education office.

Alberto Cardelle, FSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said previous to joining the agreement FSU negotiated with each state in which it wished to offer online courses individually.

Fitchburg State University had won approval to offer its online courses to students in 30 states, he said.

“Now, with SARA, we’re authorized everywhere” that participates in the interstate agreement, he said.

According to the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, the only state not participating in SARA is California.

Fitchburg State University joins 11 other colleges in the commonwealth that are authorized to enroll students from other SARA states, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

With the agreement, Fitchburg State can begin recruiting students from 49 states to enroll in the school’s online courses, said Cardelle.

The college can also begin offering financial aid to these students, he said, adding that SARA also makes it easier for students enrolled in online courses that require real-world, practical experience, to find internships.

Currently, about 1,000 students enrolled in Fitchburg State University degree or certificate programs take courses entirely online, said Cardelle.

With the authorization, the college will begin marketing its online programs including that for a Masters of Business, nursing and education to a wider audience, he said.

FSU has been offering online courses since 2008, said Cardelle, earlier than many other higher education institutions.

“That puts us ahead of a lot of our sister institutions and competitors,” he said.

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