National Council for State Authorization of Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA)
The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, commonly known as SARA, provides a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. When states join SARA, they agree to follow uniform processes for approving their eligible institutions' participation. They also agree to deal with other states' SARA institutions in a common way when those institutions carry out activities in SARA states other than their own.
SARA's policies help protect students and provide benefits to both states and institutions carrying out distance education in multiple states. As of August 2019, 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are members of SARA. About 2,000 colleges and universities.
State Regulatory Compliance
for Out-of-State Activities of Postsecondary Institutions
States require institutions to obtain approval for regulated activities that occur in their state. These activities may include online learning, practical experiences, faculty teaching from another state, marketing, advertising, and more.
The State Authorization Guide
The Guide - a collection of state laws, regulation, and requirements for institutions serving out-of-state students – is a project of NC-SARA with contributions from WCET|SAN. The State Authorization Guide outlines for each state, activities that require authorization, application processes, costs to comply, and more, as submitted by the agencies in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
History of the SHEEO Surveys
The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) was responsible for creating and managing what was called the "SHEEO State Surveys". Since 2011, this compilation of state authorization and compliance information has been a useful and freely available resource for institutions across the country. The Guide, its replacement, will continue to provide information about state higher education agencies' compliance requirements for out-of-state institutions seeking to gain authorization to enroll students in the various states through distance education. It will provide contact information for individuals doing compliance work at SHEEO and other state regulatory agencies, as well as contact information for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) portal entities, and, eventually, professional licensure boards and secretaries of state.
WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) | State Authorization Network (SAN)
The leader in guidance and support for navigating compliance for out-of-state activities for postsecondary institutions was created by WCET in 2011. SAN members receive important State Authorization support to compliment compliance through reciprocity, managing Federal compliance, as well as continuing to support institutions attaining compliance through traditional individual state process. SAN members collaborate to address the problems, discuss solutions, and prepare for the future. Communication with members includes webcasts, face to face meetings, monthly eNewsletters, alerts, email discussions, training workshops, and library of resources on the SAN website.
Other Required Approvals
To learn more about other required approvals such as International Compliance, Professional Licensure Board Approval, Secretary of State Registration, Secretary of State's offices nationwide, and the corresponding Workers Compensation Insurance for Field Placements please see the WCET|SAN other required approvals website page.
State Authorization & Federal Regulations
States have long had the authority to regulate institutions offering education within the state’s boundaries, regardless of the modality (face-to-face, distance) being used. The approval process is part of consumer protection for learners in the state. States’ regulations vary from having no regulation to having very strict requirements. Even if an institution teaches only at a distance in a state, many still expect the state process to be followed.
The department of education has long intended to provide a federal regulation that ties institutional state compliance with institutional participation with title IV financial aid. To learn more about the history of the federal regulations (including proposed regulations, negotiated rulemaking, and timelines) please visit WCET|SAN federal regulations page.
State Higher Education Agencies and SARA State Portal Entities
State Higher Education Agencies
A directory of agencies responsible for implementing state postsecondary quality assurance laws in the 50 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as a compendium of state laws and regulations.
SARA State Portal Entities
For an educational institution to be considered to participate in the National Council-State Authority Reciprocity Agreement, they must first contact their state's portal entity.