What It Is
The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among the regional education compacts (external link) (SREB, WICHE, MHEC, and NEBHE) and their member states through which participating institutions may offer distance education to students located in other member states without having to obtain separate, individual authorization from each state in which a student is located.
State membership in SARA is voluntary. Currently, 49 states (California is the only non-member state), the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are members. Each member state designates a state agency that is responsible for administering SARA within its borders and approving in-state institutional applications for participation. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) is Oklahoma’s State Portal Entity (SPE).
Only institutions located in member states can participate. Institutional participation is voluntary and available only to degree-granting institutions that are accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. For and non-profit, private and public institutions are eligible to participate. Institutions must be approved annually by the SPE of the state in which their principal campus or central administrative unit is legally domiciled.
Oklahoma institutions may only be approved for SARA participation if they fulfill the requirements of NC-SARA and OSRHE policy. Eligibility requirements can be found on the NC-SARA website (external link) and OSRHE policy section 3.17.9 of the Distance Education and Traditional Off-Campus Courses and Programs policy. Institutions are advised to review these requirements prior to submitting an application. For questions, contact the persons indicated at the bottom of this page.
Institutions that do not choose to participate or are not eligible to do so may still offer distance education to students in other states; however, they must obtain individual authorization from each state in which their students are located.
SARA is administered by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) (external link) in partnership with the four regional compacts.
How It Works
Institutions wishing to participate in SARA should submit an application to OSRHE (detailed instructions below). On receipt of the application and required additional materials, State Regents’ staff review it for completeness and compliance with NC-SARA and OSRHE policy.
Complete and compliant applications are approved (pending State Regents’ ratification at their next meeting), and a letter is generated from the OSRHE office to the institutional president documenting the approval.
State Regents’ staff enter the institution's information (provided in the application) into the NC-SARA institutional database, including institutional contact information and the institutional primary contact(s), and receive an email from NC-SARA with a link to the fee invoice and an option to pay it electronically.
On payment of the fee, the institution becomes a SARA participant. NC-SARA includes the institution in its list of participating institutions and sends an email to the institutional contacts with some information about SARA participation and a link to the SARA participation seal with instructions on how to use it on the institution’s website. State Regents’ staff is cc’d on this email.
Incomplete applications are returned to the institution with information about what is needed to complete it. State Regents’ staff will take no further action on a returned application until a complete one is received.
How Long It Takes
How long it takes to process an application depends on the completeness of the application when it is received and State Regents' staff workload at the time of receipt. Generally speaking, a complete application will take about two weeks to process.
Applications for renewal are reviewed and approved as they are received, based on the institution’s individual renewal cycle.
Institutional participation is approved for one year, before the end of which it must be renewed to continue past the end of the current year. Ninety days before participation expires, NC-SARA emails a notice to renew to the institutional contacts on record, with the expiration date and links to the current application on the NC-SARA website. State Regents’ staff is cc’d on this email. The institution then follows the application process detailed below. The same application form is used for both initial participation and institutional renewal [available from the NC-SARA website (external link)].
The application for renewal MUST be submitted a sufficient amount of time before the expiration date to allow State Regents’ staff time to review and recommend approval. No more than 30 days after receipt of the 90-day reminder from NC-SARA is strongly recommended. If NC-SARA is not notified of an application’s approval on or before the expiration date, the institution’s participation will expire, and it cannot apply to renew until 180 days after the expiration date. There is no grace period for this due date.
NC-SARA charges a fee for participation based on the institution’s FTE IPEDS-reported enrollment. The current fee schedule can be found on the NC-SARA website (external link). Although NC-SARA gives states the option to charge a state fee in addition to the SARA fee, Oklahoma does not do so.
To Apply for Participation or Renewal
- Complete the Oklahoma Cover Sheet (DOCX, 70k) and include any required attachments and information.
- Complete the Oklahoma Institution Contacts Change Form (DOCX, 71k).
- Complete the NC-SARA application. Always use the most recent application form, available at https://www.nc-sara.org/content/sara-applications (external link).
- Email the above items to both:Elizabeth Walker
Coordinator for Academic Administration
Dr. Stephanie Beauchamp
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
- Renewing institutions should submit their applications no more than 45 days prior to their participation expiration date.
Participating institutions are responsible for complying with NC-SARA participation requirements, including maintaining the minimum-required federal financial responsibility composite score, submitting to NC-SARA required annual student data reports, and fully complying with federal distance education regulations, among others.
Resources and Staff Support
Each state’s SPE provides support and resources to institutions in maintaining compliance. Additionally, NC-SARA provides extensive support and professional development opportunities related to distance education and SARA participation to faculty and staff of participating institutions. See NC-SARA.org (external link) for details.
Student Data Reports
Participating institutions are required to submit detailed student data to NC-SARA annually. The NC-SARA-imposed penalty for failure to report data as required is termination of SARA participation. However, NC-SARA will work with institutions experiencing extraordinary circumstances that interfere with timely submission of data.
The reporting period is generally May 15 through June 15. NC-SARA emails institutional contacts notification of the reporting period well in advance, and detailed instructions and guidance are provided [and available on the NC-SARA website (external link)]. NC-SARA processes the data into reports and dashboards, available to the public at https://www.nc-sara.org/annual-data-reports (external link).
Among institutional responsibilities is the maintenance of the institution’s contact information in the NC-SARA database. Institutional contacts are required for both initial and renewal applications, but sometimes an institution’s contact will change long before a renewal application is due.
When this happens, the institution must promptly notify State Regents’ staff of the change in institutional contact. Complete the Oklahoma Institution Contacts Change Form (DOCX, 71k) to submit changes in contact information (this is the same form that is submitted with the application). Email the completed form to:
Do not email this information to NC-SARA. They will reply to you with the request that you send it to your State Portal Entity.
SARA Student Complaints
As the SARA State Portal Entity ("SPE") for Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education ("OSRHE") has authority to review and investigate complaints against a SARA-participating Oklahoma institution (external link) if the complaint:
- Concerns issues related to the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (external link);
- Is made by a student who resides out-of-state and is attending the Oklahoma institution by distance education (excluding supervised field experiences);
- Is submitted to OSRHE within two years of the institution’s final decision (complaints submitted to OSRHE more than two years after the institution’s final decision will not be reviewed);
- Has been pursued within the institution to the highest institutional administrative level available; and
- Does not concern an institutional decision regarding grades or student conduct violations (institutional decisions concerning complaints about grades or student conduct violations are final and not eligible for review by OSRHE).
Students who feel the institution has not appropriately addressed a complaint that fulfills all of the conditions above may submit the complaint and the institution’s response to OSRHE for review through the SARA Student Complaint Review Request Form (external link).
On receipt of a complaint or grievance, OSRHE will contact the institution to investigate the complaint, obtain the institution’s response, and notify the SARA SPE of the state in which the student lived at the time of the complaint. OSRHE may also contact any other agency, organization or involved party as appropriate during investigation of the complaint.
If the institution is found to be out of compliance with SARA policy, OSRHE will take appropriate action to bring the institution back into compliance, up to and including removing the institution from SARA participation. OSRHE will also notify the SPE of the state in which the student lived at the time of the complaint of the findings of the review. If the institution’s decision regarding the complaint is found to be consistent with SARA policy it will not be subject to further review or action by OSRHE. The findings of OSRHE regarding the complaint will be considered final.
Oklahoma students attending an out-of-state institution through its participation in SARA who believe that the institution they are attending is operating out of compliance with SARA policy (external link) must follow the student complaint or grievance policy within the institution to the highest administrative level available. After this process is complete, students who feel the institution did not appropriately address the complaint may submit the complaint to the SARA State Portal Entity (SPE) agency for the state in which the institution is located. A list of SPEs for all SARA member states can be found on the NC-SARA website: SARA State Portal Entity Directory (external link).