Alabama House Considering Bill about Reciprocity Agreement for Online College Courses

Article excerpt

The Alabama House is considering a bill that would help the state participate in regional agreements allowing colleges and universities of member states to offer online courses across state borders without additional authorizations from the states.

House Bill 321 would allow the reciprocal online course offerings with other member states.

"This is an important bill for higher education," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.

Poole said he met with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and representatives from Alabama's colleges and universities as the bill was crafted.

"Rep. Poole is helping (the University of Alabama System) and all of higher education to rectify some of the issues in the Alabama Code that currently prevent the state from participating in regional reciprocity agreements, whereby our campuses offer online courses in other states," said Jo Bonner, vice chancellor for Government Relations and Economic Development for the University of Alabama System. "If left unfixed, this outdated provision will be very costly to all of our state universities."

The bill amends sections 10A-1-7.02 and 16-46-3 of the Alabama code to allow out-of-state nonprofit entities, which are accredited by a regional authority and are based in a state participating in a regional reciprocity agreement approved by the governor or the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, to offer online programs and operate in Alabama.

Gregory Fitch, executive director of ACHE, described the bill as a streamlining of the process for outside institutions operating in Alabama under certain conditions.

"The key to it is they have to be part of the agreement," Fitch said.

Fitch said that SACS would likely be the regional accreditation authority, and the reciprocity agreement would be through the Southern Regional Education Board, of which Alabama is a member state. …