What does my state need to do to join SARA?

Criteria for accepting states

To be accepted into a regional state authorization reciprocity arrangement, a state will have to demonstrate that it is willing and able to meet the criteria for state involvement established in the National Commission report. States will have to demonstrate that they have a workable process for authorizing institutions, including at least the following:

  • A willingness to accept institutional accreditation by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as sufficient, initial evidence of academic quality for approving institutions for participation in SARA;
  • A willingness to consider applications from degree-granting institutions of all sectors (public, private non-profit, and private for-profit) and approve institutions that meet SARA standards and agree to SARA processes and commitments;
  • For private institutions, a willingness by the state to accept an institutional federal financial responsibility rating of 1.5 (or 1.0 with justification) as sufficient financial stability to qualify for such participation;
  • A clearly articulated and comprehensive state process for consumer protection in regard to SARA activities, both with respect to initial institutional approval and on-going oversight, including the resolution of consumer complaints;
  • The designation of a “lead agency” to coordinate SARA matters for the state and provide a principal point of contact for resolution of student complaints; and
  • An assurance by the state that it will work cooperatively with other SARA states to enable success of the initiative.

These points are relevant to SARA activities, only. All other state regulation — the initial authorization of new institutions, the regulation of the in-state activities of existing in-state institutions (including distance education to in-state residents), the regulation of non-SARA institutions that want to enroll students in the state, and so forth — remain at the discretion of the state.

What do states need to do?

  • Determine if the state wants to participate.
  • Make any needed changes to statutes or rules.
  • Identify agency(ies) to solicit and approve participation of in-state institutions and resolve complaints.
  • Identify “portal” agency (if needed).
  • Adopt in-state funding model (if needed).
  • Develop and submit SARA plan to the state’s regional compact.

Resource guide for states as they consider joining and implementing SARA
National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
Bringing SARA from Design to Implementation
A Guide for State Policymakers