There are a few who do not know what the State Approving Agency is or what its responsibilities are. Each State has one and a few states have two or three. Some states have one agency to approve all school programs, another agency to approve all on-the-job training programs, and then possibly a third agency to approve the flight schools.
Congress, in its wisdom, determined that each State should create an agency to approve the programs within their borders and to determine in which programs it was appropriate for veterans to enroll, in order for them to utilize their VA educational benefits. The first State Approving Agencies (SAA) were formed for veterans after World War II. After a few years States realized that a National Association was needed and in 1948 it was formed.
The National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) assisted states in coordinating their efforts to do a better job for the veterans. Also, it was a tool to resolve mutual problems.
In many ways, the fundamental role of state approving agencies is the same today as it was when they were founded. As state entities acting on behalf of the Federal Government, the SAA's have been an outstanding example of the workability of the State-Federal partnership, allowing Federal interests to be pursued at the local level while preserving the identity, interests, and sovereignty of States' Rights in education.
The primary responsibility and focus of the SAA's continues to be the review, evaluation and approval of quality programs of education and training under State and Federal criteria. SAA's continue to conduct on-site supervisory visits to approved institutions and schools seeking approval. They continue to provide technical assistance to all interested parties and are engaged in outreach activities to foster the usage of the GI Bill. Further, they continue to act as state liaison in assisting military installations to provide base personnel with quality educational offerings. Yet, while the fundamental role of the SAA has remained the same, the SAA's have grown with the changes in our society over the past fifty years. They have become advocates for quality education and training for Veterans and other eligible persons. They have become educational partners with the institutions themselves, facilitating even greater and more diverse educational opportunities for Veterans. They have become strong advocates for the usage of the GI Bill and have developed a working partnership with the Federal government, which other Federal agencies have tried to emulate.
As State and National priorities change, as the function of government undergoes perpetual re-examination, and as the needs of our Veterans evolve with changes in American society, state approving agencies stand ready to meet the challenges before them. Yet in spite of the need for new approaches and technologies, differing styles of oversight and enhanced criteria for performance, the fundamental reasons for which the SAA's were originally created remain as valid today as they were fifty years ago.
The programs that can be approved are found in institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities), non-degree institutions (vocational and technical schools), apprenticeship programs, other on-the-job training programs, and flight training schools. Each state reviews the appropriateness of each program as to its own standards and laws in addition to VA rules and regulations along with any other applicable laws and/or regulations. Then it is either approved or disapproved; continuous supervision is required of approved programs.
The approval process is on going and involves regular monitoring of the programs. South Dakota has approximately 2,100 eligible people enrolled in programs. The programs are found in 47 schools and 192 training establishments and businesses. Three hundred fifty five on-site visits were made in the last fiscal year.
The South Dakota State Approving Agency is located in Pierre with the Department of Veterans Affairs and it approves all programs. For information or assistance call (605) 773-3269 or 773-3648 (school programs) or 773-3565 (training programs).