Annual NC-SARA Report Shows Growth of Distance Education

Ohio State experienced record growth in distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 19,095 students exclusively enrolled in distance education in fall 2020, up from 2,790 students in fall 2019 and 2,335 in fall 2018.

This dramatic growth is in line with other institutions across the country, as shown in the recently released National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) annual data report.

Nationally, NC-SARA recorded a 93% increase from fall 2019 to fall 2020, with 2,201 SARA institutions reporting more than 5.8 million students enrolled exclusively in distance education. This is an increase from 3 million students in fall 2019 and 2.8 million students in fall 2018. The increase mirrors Ohio State’s and reflects the need to shift what would have been in-person courses to distance education due to the pandemic.

While much of this increase was likely temporary, Ohio State’s growth in distance education enrollment and number of programs offered continues to trend upward. The Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) will remain a strong partner with colleges and departments as the university seeks to enhance existing programs and build new offerings to meet student demand. An example of the strength of these partnerships is the addition of six programs in fiscal year 2021, bringing the total number of Ohio State Online programs to 51 at the end of fiscal year 2021.

The NC-SARA report also showed a 3.9% decline in out-of-state learning placements nationwide. For Ohio State, this was also the case. The university reported 1,263 students in out-of-state learning placements during 2019 — a number which dropped to 793 in 2020. This drop was expected, as many institutions and organizations closed  or reduced in-person operations while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it’s too early to know what long-lasting affects the pandemic will haveon distance education enrollments and out-of-state learning placements, Ohio State’s online education enrollment is consistently growing. This trend is expected to continue even as institutions return to in-person classes.

Other interesting state and university-level data published in the NC-SARA report include:

  • Ohio received 64,835 students living outside of the state who were exclusively enrolled in distance education programs at institutions within Ohio.
    • This is an increase over fall 2019, which had 40,292 out-of-state students exclusively enrolled in distance education. This number has consistently grown each year since fall 2015, when the state had just 10,759 out-of-state distance education students.
    • Of those students, 2,848 were enrolled at Ohio State. This number has grown in comparison to just 404 students enrolling at Ohio State while being located out-of-state in fall 2018 and 501 students in fall 2019.
  • Ohio had 58,152 students who lived in the state of Ohio but enrolled exclusively in distance education at an institution located outside of the state.
    • This number has also increased in the last few years. In fall 2015, Ohio had 29,914 students living in Ohio but enrolled in institutions out of state.
  • Ohio received 9,008 out-of-state learning placements in fall of 2020. This number has remained consistent, with Ohio receiving 9,119 students in fall 2018 and 8,865 students in fall 2019.
  • Ohio sent 10,527 students out-of-state for their learning placements in fall 2020. This was a decrease compared to fall 2019 which had 15,562 and was a decrease even when compared to fall 2018 levels at 13,669.

Ohio State’s participation as an institution in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) has many benefits to our students and to the university. One of the requirements for the university’s continued participation is the annual submission for distance education enrollment and out-of-state learning placement data. Many of our colleagues across the campus community assist in this process, which state authorization is incredibly grateful for.

If you have any questions about the NC-SARA Annual Data Report, please contact the state authorization team.