NC-SARA, Online Learning Network, Ousts President Suddenly

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The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, which sets shared national standards for postsecondary distance education courses and programs that are offered across state lines, announced the immediate departure of its president and CEO, Lori Williams, late Monday evening.

NC-SARA offered no details about the reasons for the sudden change in leadership. Its board chairman, Ed Ray, former president of Oregon State University, described the change as “the first of many steps in a larger, strategic realignment.”

In an interview Tuesday, Ray referred to Williams’s departure as a “personnel matter” that it would be inappropriate to discuss. But he implicitly criticized her by saying that the organization hasn’t been sufficiently responsive to state officials and other constituents. “We haven’t operated as effectively as we should, and we need to make a break with that and go forward.”

“You can’t say you’re making big changes and everything was fine,” Ray said. “Everything was not fine.”

A group of state attorneys general and the U.S. Education Department, prodded by consumer advocates, had urged NC-SARA in recent years to step up its protections for students and give states more power to set their own rules. Others said that NC-SARA under Williams had stepped on the toes of the regional education compacts.

Williams declined to comment.

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