Section 16-67-1

Reciprocity committee and fund.

(a) There is created the State Reciprocity Committee. The membership of the committee shall consist of the following members:

(1) The Chancellor of the University of Alabama System, or his or her designee.

(2) The President of Auburn University, or his or her designee.

(3) The President of the University of South Alabama, or his or her designee.

(4) The Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, or his or her designee.

(5) A president of a historically black college or university, or his or her designee, appointed by the Governor.

(b) At the organizational meeting of the committee, and annually thereafter, the membership of the reciprocity committee shall select the chair from among the membership of the reciprocity committee. The reciprocity committee shall make recommendations to the Governor on all issues, decisions, appointments, and designations necessary for the State of Alabama to participate and comply with reciprocity agreements.

(c) The reciprocity committee shall appoint and direct a state coordinator in doing all of the following:

(1) Negotiating reciprocal agreements with other states regarding the offering of educational services of Alabama institutions of higher education in other states.

(2) Negotiating reciprocal agreements allowing institutions of higher education in other states to offer educational services in this state.

(3) Coordinating Alabama's compliance with efforts relating to reciprocity agreements.

(d) The coordinator shall act under the direction of the reciprocity committee in doing all of the following:

(1) Conferring with other institutions of higher education within the State of Alabama, including independent colleges and universities, and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

(2) Promptly informing the reciprocity committee of all developments.

(3) Coordinating and leading all activities, action, and efforts necessary for the State of Alabama to participate and comply with reciprocity agreements.

(e) The coordinator shall have no power to bind the State of Alabama to any agreements, as that power is reserved for the Governor.

(f)(1) The reciprocity committee shall select a portal agency. For the purposes of this section, a portal agency is an entity designated and managed by the reciprocity committee to serve as the point of contact for questions, complaints, and other communications from State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) and other reciprocity agreements entered into by the State of Alabama that seek to establish comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs.

(2) The reciprocity committee shall manage the activities of the portal agency through the coordinator and the portal agency shall make reports at least quarterly or more frequently upon the request of the coordinator. The quarterly reports shall include, at a minimum, data requested by the reciprocity committee and the coordinator.

(3) Commencing on May 5, 2015, every five years the reciprocity committee shall compile the data necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of SARA and other reciprocity agreements. Based on the outcomes of the evaluation, the committee may recommend to the Governor that the state withdraw from any reciprocity agreement that is counter to the best interests of Alabama students or the state for reasons including, but not limited to, overly high enrollment in institutions with low completion rates and high student loan default rates.

(g)(1) The reciprocity committee may annually establish fees to be collected by the portal agency from each Alabama SARA institution based on full-time enrollment and commensurate with the costs of administering SARA and other reciprocity agreements entered into by the State of Alabama that seek to establish comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs, except that such fees shall be limited as follows: Initial application and subsequent annual renewal fees which, by dollar amount, may not exceed the respective individual institution fees assessed by the National Council for SARA, or its successor entity. In the event the National Council for SARA determines to waive or terminate the assessment of fees for participating institutions, then the fee applicable to participating Alabama SARA institutions shall be the same as those fees assessed in the prior fiscal year.

(2) All fees collected pursuant to this subsection shall be deposited and credited to a dedicated Reciprocity Fund, which is hereby created in the State Treasury, for use by the portal agency as designated by the reciprocity committee. All monies deposited into the Reciprocity Fund are hereby appropriated to the portal agency for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016.

(3) The fees to be collected by the reciprocity committee shall accompany an application for voluntary participation in SARA and the annual renewal thereof.

(h) If the institution of a member of the reciprocity committee is under investigation for a SARA complaint, the member shall recuse himself or herself from any discussions or proceedings relating to that investigation.

(Act 2015-122, §2.)