The foundational function of the state in higher education is the approval of an entity to establish itself as a postsecondary institution. Most often referred to as state authorization, it is the first formal act in the legal operation of an institution and often serves as the foundation upon which other quality assurance functions are built (like accreditation). We posit that it is time for states to reconsider and reconceptualize how they develop and implement a state authorization process aimed at meeting the needs of its students as well as the strategic goals of the state, particularly around quality assurance and consumer protections. This is particularly true given the proliferation of new providers, distance education, alternative credentials, and new technologies.
As such, SHEEO has launched two projects meant to help states improve their authorization process. The first, funded by Lumina Foundation, is the State Authorization Learning Community Project, which is designed to help nine state teams evaluate and strengthen their authorization processes to protect students better and improve quality in higher education.
The second, the State Authorization Research Projects, funded by Arnold Ventures, is a competitive research funding project that has resulted in six funded projects meant to provide states with evidence-based recommendations to improve state authorization.
Dustin Weeden, senior policy analyst