Talking Points (white papers)
Federal Regulations
Getting Started
Military Students
Reciprocity (SARA)
Student Complaints

State Authorization and Military Students

Updated version by Sara Appel and Cheryl Dowd, February 2021


Ever since the U.S. Department of Education issued the original 2010 federal state authorization regulation for distance education, which tied institutional compliance to state laws and regulations with participate in Title IV, HEA programs, many institutions have taken a closer look at the relevant laws in states where they operate to determine if they are in compliance with those laws. Note that after an unpredictable history of revisions[1], the currently effective Federal Regulation for State Authorization for Distance Education became effective on July 1, 2020.[2]  However, state laws have been continuously effective during that ten-year unpredictable history of the federal regulation.

Sorting through all of the variables that impact whether an institution needs to obtain state institutional approval in a state is daunting. After figuring out what activities your institution is doing in each state (facilities, student location for online learning or experiential learning, faculty location, recruiting, advertising, etc.), the next step is to figure out what that means in each state in terms of the state institutional approval requirements.


Myth: My institution does not need to obtain state institutional approval in states where we only enroll or recruit students on military bases.

Fact: Most states do not distinguish between enrolling or recruiting students on military bases versus enrolling or recruiting other students residing in a state.

Read more.........


Bookmarked Sections:

  • Introduction
  • Military Students Move Around the Country....
  • What About State of Residence?
  • What about SARA?
  • Military Students are Sometimes Posted Outside the United States....
  • Military Education Benefits
  • Complaints
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments



The authors of this updated document are grateful to Marianne Boeke, Jeannie Yockey-Fine, and Matt Johnson for their work on the prior versions of this guidance.

2021 Updated Version Authors:

Sara Appel serves as the Associate Director, Policy Initiatives, at the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. She has been working with military-connected students in higher education for over 20 years and has experience in writing, research, and program management. Prior to her working for the Compact, Sara was the academic programs manager at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. She has an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and a master’s degree in History with an emphasis on Research. Sara began working for the Compact in January 2016.

Cheryl Dowd serves as the Director of the State Authorization Network (SAN) for WCET.  Cheryl directs the activities and research to develop strategies for the management of State and Federal regulatory compliance requirements for the out of state activities of the more than 800 member institutions and agencies nationwide. Cheryl is a contributing author for a guide book for understanding the legal basis for State and Federal compliance for activities of postsecondary institutions, State Authorization of Colleges and Universities.  Cheryl earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Richmond, MS in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green State University, and BS in Political Science from James Madison University.


Note: The information presented is offered as considerations when an institution wishes to develop a process to manage out-of-state activity compliance when supporting military affiliated students. The information should not be considered legal advice. Legal questions should be directed to legal counsel.

State Authorization Network  - WCET  (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) | 303.541.0210

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License