SARA and State-Mandated Tuition Refund Policies

Updated by on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:16

Submitted by jshanika on Tue, 04/17/2018 - 13:05

SARA staff have received several questions regarding the state-mandated tuition refund policies of several (SARA) states and the applicability of those polices to SARA-participating institutions operating from other states.

The SARA Manual -- SARA's principal policy and operations document -- does not now contain policy language on the issue. The Unified Agreement (adopted by the four regional compacts and NC-SARA in December, 2015) contains the following language regarding requirements for states to participate in SARA:

The state has eliminated, for purposes of SARA, fees, requirements for a refund policy unique to that state, requirements for a set curriculum for general education requirements, a mandatory number of hours for a degree or certificate, and other such requirements for out-of-state institutions that do not have physical presence in their borders and are participating in the interstate reciprocity agreement.”  (Section 5.1.5) 

In addition, item 9 on the Application and Evaluation Form for State Membership in SARA :

9. “The state agrees that, if it has requirements, standards, fees, or procedures for the approval and authorization of non-domestic institutions of higher education providing distance education in the state, it will not apply those standards, fees, or procedures to any non-domestic institution that participates in SARA; instead, the state will apply those specifically prescribed in or allowed by the SARA Manual.”

That is current NC-SARA policy on this issue. NC-SARA staff will over the next several months work with states and regional compacts to further consider the issue and in all likelihood prepare expanded policy language for the NC-SARA Board to consider at its November 2018 meeting.

Currently, SARA institutions are to:

  • Apply the tuition refund policies of their home state to students located in other SARA states; and
  • For students located in non-SARA states, follow any relevant tuition refund policies of those states.

Marshall A. Hill
Executive Director, NC-SARA
April, 2018