Generally, an institution has physical presence when it operates a campus, branch instructional facility whether leased or owned, or administrative office within the boundaries of a state. However, because the specific definitions of physical presence currently vary greatly from state to state, especially with regard to out-of-state institutions that seek to conduct any activity within another state, SARA has established its own uniform standard for physical presence vs. distance education. For purposes of participation in SARA, this standard applies, but it does not affect the application of existing state laws to colleges that choose to operate outside of SARA or which are based in states that are not SARA members.
1. For purposes of SARA, an institution has physical presence and therefore must meet the state’s current non-SARA requirements if it does any of these things in a state:
- Establishes a physical location for students to receive synchronous or asynchronous instruction
- Requires students to physically meet in a location for instructional purposes more than twice per full-term (quarter or semester) course for a total of more than six hours
- Establishes an administrative office
- Provides information to students for the purpose of enrolling students, or provides student support services, from a physical site operated by or on behalf of the institution in the state
- Offers a “short course” that requires more than 20 contact hours
- Provides office space to instructional or non-instructional staff
- Maintains a mailing address or phone exchange in a state.
2. An institution does not have physical presence, and is therefore covered by SARA in SARA member states, if it is only:
- Offering courses to individuals via distance education in ways that do not require students to gather physically in groups, excepting the special provisions in Section 6(1);
- Advertising to students whether through print, billboard, direct mail, internet, radio, television or other medium;
- Offering distance education courses on a military base if enrollment in such courses is limited to federal employees and family members;
- Maintaining a server, router or similar electronic service device housed in a facility that otherwise would not constitute physical presence (the presence of a server or similar pass-through switching device does not by itself constitute the offering of a course or program in that state)
- Having faculty, adjunct faculty, mentors, tutors, or other academic personnel residing in a member state (the presence of instructional faculty in a state, when those faculty teach entirely via distance-education and never meet their students in person, does not establish physical presence for purposes of this agreement)
- Holding proctored exams on behalf of the institution in the host state
- Having contractual arrangements in the home or host state.
- Offering educational field experiences for students, including an educational field trip arranged for a group of students that are normally in residence at an institution in another state
- Operating limited supervised field experiences. For purposes of this agreement, interstate supervised field experiences originating from campus-based programs in a member state are considered to be distance education and not to establish physical presence if they:
- place fewer than ten students from each program in a member state who are physically present simultaneously at a single facility or site in a host state, and
- do not involve any multi-year contract between a sending institution and a field site.