State Authorization (NC-SARA)

The US Department of Education requires that any institution offering distance education programs to students outside of its home state must acquire authorization from the states in which students reside. Regulations vary from state to state.

Chicago State University (CSU) has received approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to participate in the National Council for State Authorization and Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).  Chicago State University may offer online programming to students in other states.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of post-secondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by post-secondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts.





Who belongs to SARA?

The members of SARA are states, not institutions or students. Therefore a state “joins” or becomes a “member” of SARA while a college or university “operates under” or “participates in” SARA. States join SARA through their respective regional compact.

NOTE: The District of Columbia and U.S. Territories that are part of a regional compact are also eligible to join SARA.

Does SARA completely replace state authorization?

No. Any degree-granting institution in the U.S. must be authorized to issue degrees by a government. This is typically a state but it can also be Congress or an Indian tribe. SARA pertains to approval of distance education courses and programs offered across state lines by institutions that already have degree authorization in at least one state. What SARA does is centralize the authorization process for each institution in a single state called the institution’s “home state.” Colleges or universities in a SARA state therefore only need their home state authorization to offer distance education to any other SARA member state.

Is every state a member of SARA?

No, membership is voluntary. States may choose to join SARA through the regional compact to which they belong. NC-SARA will maintain a list of SARA member states and institutions operating under SARA.

How does Illinois participate in SARA?

Illinois is a member of the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC), one of four statutorily-created interstate compacts which aims to "provide greater higher education opportunities and services in the Midwestern region."  MHEC also includes the states of Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  MHEC is working with the other interstate compacts (see map above) to successfully implement SARA across all member states in the country.  In other words, MHEC is the portal through which Illinois' individual institutions are able to participate in SARA.

How can I learn more about SARA and MHEC?

Review the following documents:

Visit the following websites: