The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement.

  • July 13 2023

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is a relatively new initiative aimed at improving the quality of online distance education programs. SARA was developed by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) in response to the growing need for cross-state regulation of online educational programs. It is a voluntary agreement among member states and institutions that allows distance education programs to operate across state lines without additional authorization requirements.

Prior to the establishment of SARA, online education programs were required to get separate approval from each state in which they planned to offer courses or programs. This process was time-consuming, expensive and often led to confusion and inconsistency. The establishment of SARA has gone a long way in streamlining the authorization process for online programs and has created a more uniform regulatory environment.

SARA member states agree to a set of common standards for the regulation of online education programs, which include both academic and financial standards. Institutions that participate in SARA must comply with these standards, which are designed to ensure the quality of online programs and to protect students from fraudulent or low-quality programs. SARA also provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between states and institutions in cases where there is a disagreement over the quality or regulatory status of a program.

SARA has been widely successful and has grown rapidly since its inception in 2014. Currently, there are 49 member states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 2,100 institutions across the United States, including traditional colleges and universities, community colleges, and for-profit institutions participate in SARA.

The benefits of SARA are clear. It simplifies the regulatory environment for institutions, reduces the cost of compliance, and provides students with more options for high-quality online education programs. Additionally, SARA has helped to reduce fraudulent activity in the online educational space by setting clear standards and providing a framework for dispute resolution when necessary.

In conclusion, the establishment of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement has been a significant step forward for online education regulation in the United States. SARA has provided a standardized framework for regulating online programs across state lines, making it easier for institutions to offer high-quality online education programs while ensuring that students are protected from fraudulent or low-quality programs. As more states and institutions join SARA, the future of online education looks bright.