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Reciprocity (SARA)

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Reciprocal Agreements

Reciprocal agreements are the most promising way to provide uniform oversight of institutions to provide student protections to address the uneven variation of state institutional approvals nationwide.

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) is a state to state reciprocal agreement that establishes national uniform requirements for interstate offering of distance-education courses and programs plus requirements for other activities including, but not limited to: experiential learning, recruiting, and marketing in a state other than the home state of the institution.

  • States choose to become members to the reciprocity agreement which is known as SARA.
  • SARA policy provides the uniform requirements to obtain institutional approval for designated distance education related activities that take place in other SARA states.
  • Institutions may choose to “operate under” or “participate in” SARA upon approval of their state and are therefore not members of NC-SARA the entity as explained below. 
  • National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is a private nonprofit organization [501(c)(3)] that facilitates collaboration among the four regional compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB, WICHE) to implement the reciprocity agreement in the states.

It is very important to note that SARA participation does not cover any institution responsibilities for other state laws and regulations or to other state agencies in another state beyond the requirements for institutional approval for the higher education agency. (ex. State Professional Boards, Dept. of Taxation, State Secretary of State, or Dept. of Labor)

SARA Manual - State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements Policy and Operations Manual

Institutions must remember to update Institution SARA Contact Information to NC-SARA, Regional Director, and State Portal Entity when there is a change of staffing at the institution.


Reciprocity Resources Developed by SAN

Key NC-SARA Website Pages

Important Aspects of SARA

  • SARA is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories. 
  • States choose to join SARA through their respective regional compact (MHEC, NHEBE, SREB, WICHE).
  • States must renew their membership to SARA every other year.
  • State membership is voluntary – not all states are members.
  • Oversight of the institution is by the “home state” of the institution offering the instruction. The host state (where the student is located) can also work to resolve problems.
  • Institutions apply to their state for state approval  to “operate under” or “participate in” SARA. (institutions are not considered members of NC-SARA the 501(c)(3) organization)
  • Institutions must pay an annual fee to NC-SARA to participate. (Some states require an additional fee to the state)
  • Institutions must renew their state approval to participate in reciprocity on an annual basis.
  • SARA provides reciprocity compliance for many out of state activities of the institution, but not all. 
  • SARA Manual is available to be downloaded.

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