The Catholic University of America


State Authorization Resources

 Distance Education Rule Delayed for Two Years: See OMB  posting for Spring 2018. A second OMB posting indicates the Department will engage in negotiated rulemaking.  The requirements under SARA remain in place,and state laws and penalties remain in place. This delay is fully analyzed in the Hogan Lovells May 14, 2018 Education Alert: Third time's the charm? ED delays distance education rule

Also, WCET, The Announcement of the delay was delayed, but the result is a delay.

Federal Regulations Groundhog Day by WCET (history of state authorization rule)

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements Manual March 12, 2018

Spring 2018 Reporting for SARA Institutions


The NC-SARA 2018 Enrollment Data Reporting period will be May 21 - June 11, 2018.


All SARA institutions are required to participate in enrollment reporting. A link to an institution-specific web form will be sent to all active institution contacts May 21, 2018. We encourage each SARA institution to decide which person will be responsible for reporting and submitting the institution's information.


The Spring 2018 NC-SARA Enrollment Data Reporting Guides and Data Sharing Agreement are available now – about six weeks earlier than the release of last year’s Guide. Basic protocols for 2018 reporting of enrollments do not change from those of 2017.


The 2018 Guides provides additional information on topics that have proven challenging for some institutions, such as dealing with the location of military students.


The blog and additional information along with the Guide(s) are available here:


WCET State Authorization Page: The single best resource on state authorization. 

Professional Licensure Notifications and Disclosures for Out of State Courses/Programs, WCET Frontiers, Feb. 7, 2018. Excellent summary.

Program Integrity and Improvement, Final Rule, Dept. of Education, 81 Fed. Reg. 92232, Dec. 19, 2016

In this final rule, effective July 1, 2018, the Dept. of Education amends the State authorization sections of the Institutional Eligibility regulations issued under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). In addition, the Secretary amends the Student Assistance General Provisions regulations issued under the HEA, including the addition of a new section on required institutional disclosures for distance education and correspondence courses. The new rule would do the following: 


  • Require an institution offering distance education or correspondence courses to be authorized by each State in which the institution enrolls students, if such authorization is required by the State, in order to link State authorization of institutions offering distance education to institutional eligibility to participate in the title IV, HEA programs, including through a State authorization reciprocity agreement. 
  • Define the term “State authorization reciprocity agreement” to be an agreement between two or more States that authorizes an institution located and legally authorized in a State covered by the agreement to provide postsecondary education through distance education or correspondence courses to students residing in other States covered by the agreement and does not prohibit any State in the agreement from enforcing its own statutes and regulations, whether general or specifically directed at all or a subgroup of educational institutions. 
  • Require an institution to document the State process for resolving complaints from students enrolled in programs offered through distance education or correspondence courses. 
  • Require that an additional location or branch campus located in a foreign location be authorized by an appropriate government agency of the country where the additional location or branch campus is located and, if at least half of an educational program can be completed at the location or branch campus, be approved by the institution's accrediting agency and be reported to the State where the institution's main campus is located. 
  • Require that an institution provide public and individualized disclosures to enrolled and prospective students regarding its programs offered solely through distance education or correspondence courses.

The definition of *state authorization reciprocity agreement* was changed as follows:

Changes: We have revised the definition of State authorization reciprocity agreement by deleting the words “consumer protection laws” and adding in their place “statutes and regulations, whether general or specifically directed at all or a subgroup of educational institutions.” In addition, we have replaced the word “participating” with reference to a participating State with the word “any” so that a State authorization reciprocity agreement does not prohibit any State from enforcing its own statutes and regulations, whether general or specifically directed at all or a subgroup of educational institutions. We add the word “residing” after the word “students” to clarify that the agreement authorizing and institution to provide postsecondary education through distance education or correspondence courses is to students residing in other States covered by the agreement. We also add the words “in the agreement” after “any State” to clarify that the agreement does not prohibit any State in the agreement from enforcing its own statutes and regulations.

Failure to obtain authorization in a particular state results in denial of Title IV aid for that particular state.  Institutions should not market to, nor enroll students in, a program in a State unless the institution has met applicable State authorization requirements. An institution should be providing the student with information about its State authorization status and should be informing the student that, if the student relocates to a State where the institution is not authorized, the institution cannot disburse Federal student aid to the student as long as the student continues to reside in that State.

All Institutions must perform the due diligence of learning what additional requirements a foreign government may put on an institution to offer educational programs in their jurisdiction and comply with those requirements as a basic price of doing business in that foreign country.

While these regulations provide an exemption for branch campuses that is physically located on a military base, facility, or area that a foreign country has granted the U.S. military to use, the Department declines to publish a complete listing of these areas. These areas would be decided by a Status of Forces agreement between the U.S. and a foreign country.

Complaint process and other required disclosures

The Department added new § 668.50(b) and (c), which requires disclosures to enrolled and prospective students in the institution's distance education programs. Up to eight disclosures will be made publicly available, and up to three disclosures will require direct communication with enrolled and prospective students when certain conditions have been met. These disclosures will not change any other required disclosures of the Student Assistance General Provisions regulations.

Public Disclosures
§ 668.50(b)(1) Whether the program is authorized in the state in which the enrolled student resides; 

§ 668.50(b)(2)(i) Process for submitting complaints to the appropriate State agency in the State in which the main campus of the institution is located;

§ 668.50(b)(2)(ii) Any complaint process established by the reciprocity agreement;

§ 668.50(b)(3) Process for submitting complaints to the appropriate State agency in the State in which enrolled students reside, including contact information for those State agencies that handle consumer complaints;

§ 668.50(b)(4) Disclose any adverse actions a State entity has initiated related to the institution's distance education programs or correspondence courses for a five calendar year period prior to the year in which the institution makes the disclosure. 

§ 668.50(b)(5) Disclose any adverse actions an accrediting agency has initiated related to the institution's distance education programs or correspondence courses for a five calendar year period prior to the year in which the institution makes the disclosure;

§ 668.50(b)(6) Disclose any refund policies for the return of unearned tuition and fees with which the institution is required to comply by any State in which the institution enrolls students in a distance education program or correspondence courses. This disclosure requires publication of the State-specific requirements on the refund policies as well as any institutional refund policies that would be applicable to students enrolled in programs offered through distance education or correspondence courses with which the institution must comply.

§ 668.50(b)(7) Disclose the applicable educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification which the program offered through distance education or correspondence course prepares the student to enter for each State in which students reside. The institution must also make this disclosure for any other State which the institution has made a determination regarding such prerequisites as well as if the institution's program meets those requirements. For any State for which an institution has not made a determination with respect to the licensure or certification requirement, an institution will be required to disclose a statement to that effect. 

Individual Disclosures

NB: These are federally required individual disclosures. Some states have their own unique disclosures. 

Under § 668.50(c)(1)(i), an institution will be required to provide an individualized disclosure to prospective students when it determines a program offered solely through distance education or correspondence courses does not meet licensure or certification prerequisites in the State of the student's residence.

Under § 668.50(c)(1)(ii), an institution will be required to provide an individualized disclosure to both enrolled and prospective students within 30 days of when it becomes aware of any adverse action initiated by a State or an accrediting agency related to the institution's programs offered through distance education or correspondence courses; or within seven days of the institution's determination that a program ceases to meet licensure or certification prerequisites of a State.

For prospective students who receive any individualized disclosure and subsequently enroll, § 668.50(c)(2) will require an institution to obtain an acknowledgment from the student that the communication was received prior to the student's enrollment in the program.

For summaries/comments of/on the new final rule, see the following: 

NC SARA response; 

See also the Dec. 21, 2016 Inside Higher Ed summary

Also, see ED Clarifies its intent on State Authorization Reciprocity, dated 1-10-17 by Phil Hill.

Jan. 18, 2017 letter from US Dept. of Education clarifying intent of final rule*

 NC-SARA Two Things: Next July's USED Rules and HEA Reauthorization (12-13-17)

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 81 Fed. Reg. 48597, July 25, 2016

This is the redo (in part) of the rule that was struck down in 2010 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. This proposed rule will fix the procedural errors found to exist in the rulemaking process at that time. Many schools are now participating in State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) which reduces some but not all of the burdens associated with offering distance education. This establishes requirements for institutional disclosures to prospective and enrolled students in programs offered solely through distance education. This includes disclosures that reflect actions taken against a distance education program, how to lodge complaints against a program that has misled them, and whether the program will lead to certification or licensure. If a state in which a University offers an online program is not covered by a SARA agreement, it still has to meet any existing regulatory requirements of the state where the online program is offered. A state may enforce its own consumer protection laws. Any additional location or branch campus in a foreign country must be authorized by an appropriate agency of that country. The proposed rule is summarized by Russ Poulin in a WCET post titled Department of Education State Authorization for Distance Ed Regulations-A First Look. The good news is the proposed rule recognizes SARA as a valid way of meeting state authorization requirements. As noted above, in non SARA states where the institution is offering distance education, institutions would have an ongoing to identify/document/disclose the complaint process in those states that their distance education students could use. 

Inside Higher Ed Article dated June 6, 2016: Final Push for State Authorization Rule

Karl F. Brevitz paper on Overview of Distance Education State Authorization, published Oct. 19, 2015 for the University of Vermont 25th Annual Legal Issues in Higher Education Conference. 

SARA Manual updated Dec. 2016, incorporates, updates and replaces previous versions of SARA Policies and Standards. 

Universal Design: An Accessibility Philosophy that Helps Everyone (WCET Sept. 2015)

Update on the Five Types of State Authorization Regulations, July 2015 by Russ Poulin

Verification of Compliance with Accreditation-Relevant Federal Regulations: Implemenation for 2015-published by Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Education Department Urges Colleges to Follow IPEDS Distance Ed Definitions (posted 10-17-14-WCET blog)

Contains a succinct definition of distance education: IPEDS defines a “distance education course” as: “A course in which the instructional content is delivered exclusively via distance education.  Requirements for coming to campus for orientation, testing, or academic support services do not exclude a course from being classified as distance education.”

The definition asks colleges to: “Include all students enrolled for credit (courses or programs that can be applied towards the requirements for a postsecondary degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award), regardless of whether or not they are seeking a degree or certificate.”  There is no mention of how the courses are funded or whether the courses are offered by a continuing education college.  They were very clear that students enrolled in for-credit courses in colleges of continuing education should have been included in the counts.  The Department will not issue a clarifying document, but they plan to inform the state IPEDS coordinators when they next meet.



Social Work Specific

Council On Social Work Accreditation: Directory of Accredited Programs. They accredit MSWs in all 50 states. Catholic University is accredited for both the MSW and the Bachelor's degree. 

NB:  3-14-14 Conversation between KFB and a staff member at CSWE: There has been some discussion among state boards of social work of moving toward a rule like that in New Hampshire--where online students must spend at least some amount of time taking classwork on-site at the offering institution.  She said she thought Virginia might be considering this.

SWES Contains list of addresses and phone numbers for all Social Work Licensing Boards

ASWB Regulatory Brief: Advanced Standing

ASWB contacted member boards to ask for information about requirements related to advanced standing MSW degrees. Members were asked: “If a candidate has an advanced standing degree, do you require additional information about the specific courses completed at the baccalaureate level, which were used to exempt completion of similar courses at the graduate level?

Nursing Specific

National Council of State Boards of Nursing web page on Distance Education Issues (with White Paper)**

National Council of State Boards of Nursing: Has links to all state BONs.

Four states have two boards of nursing, one for registered nurses (RNs) and one for licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs): California, Georgia, Louisiana and West Virginia



The Intersection of State Authorization Agencies and Professional Licensing Boards, by Sharyl Thompson, July 2017

Updated renewal applications for NC-SARA

December 2016 NC-SARA Manual

NC SARA physical presence standard 

Proposed Federal State Authorization language on Alan Contreras blog***(March 2014)

SARA PPT Navigating State Authorization
(April 2014 by Midwestern Higher Education Compact-MHEC)
Very clear and helpful powerpoint from the beginning (the rule) througth the solution (SARA)

State Actions Regarding SARA

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements: Policies and Standards**Nov. 2013

What Are Institutions Doing (or Not doing) about State Authorization Revisited. March 2013, a Joint Project of UPCEA, WCET, and Sloan-C

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements: SARA: Has key contacts.

Authorization and Screening Hurdles for Distance Ed program, short summary by Alan Contreras

 1. The state you are in. In your case this is DC, so you have a Congressional charter or an operational license from the DC government, probably a very old one that everyone has forgotten is there. That document, and that document alone, is your legal authority to issue degrees. It's not your educational authority, it's your degree authority.
 2. Your institutional accreditation. (i.e. Middle States)
 3. Any accreditation that is the norm for a program, e.g. ABA for the law school, APA for professional psychology.
 4. A license or authorization to offer courses or degrees in each other state in which you do so, unless that state's own laws exempt such activity. Some states regulate distance ed, some don't.
 5. Approval (in the case of a program leading to licensure and practice) of your program AND its clinical placements by the proper professional licensing board in each state.
 6. Approval as in (5) above for actual licensure in each state, which can involve slightly different issues than in (5) above.

See Mr. Contera's 2009 paper Legal Basis For Degree-Granting Authority in the US.


 NACUANOTES: General Personal Jurisdiction Over Institutions of Higher Education: Daimler's Impact on The Traditional Exception, Maintaining Registered Agents, and Online Institutions. (1-9-18)

SHEEO Surveys (updated)




Issue Paper 2 State Authorization of Distance Education Providers as a Component of Institutional Eligibility: Released March 20, 2014

Issue Paper 3 State Authorization of foreign locations of Domestic Institutions (Released March 20, 2014)


NACUANOTES: Vol. 11, No. 8 - Status of Federal Regulation of State Authorization March 29, 2013

Colleges Crossing Borders-Counts and State Authorization: IPEDS Reality Check by Russ Poulin, March 11, 2014 (third in a series of blog posts)

State Authorization Network Web Page: $5,000 to join their network. Must also be a member of WCET.


Virginia Regulations Effective Feb. 3, 2014 Governing Certification of certain institutions to confer degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates***



updated 7-7-18

 archived articles

State Authorization for Distance Ed Federal Regulation to be Implemented 7/1/2018 (WCET)

Getting Ready for ED's New State Authorization Rule, April 10, 2018, by Aaron Drew Lacey, Thompson Coburn LLP