State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is a national initiative to provide more access to online courses while maintaining compliance standards with state regulatory agencies. SARA allows institutions to provide online courses outside of their own state borders by seeking and maintaining state approvals via a streamlined process. To learn more about SARA, please visit:

In February 2014, Purdue became a member of the National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). A “State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement” is an agreement among its member states, districts and U.S. territories that establishes comparable standards for offering postsecondary distance education courses and programs. Participation in SARA provides PU with authorization to provide postsecondary distance education to students in other States and territories covered by the agreement. Limitations: SARA applies only to distance education activities conducted across state lines. SARA does not affect the applicability of general-purpose state laws such as business registries, general-purpose consumer protection laws, worker’s compensation laws and the like. SARA also does not affect the applicability of state professional licensing or other regulatory agency requirements.

Participating SARA States

SARA States
Click map for details

SARA Student Complaint Process

Distance Education as Defined by SARA

“Distance Education” means instruction offered by any means where the student and faculty member are in separate physical locations. It includes, but is not limited to, online, interactive video and correspondence courses or programs.

“Out-of-State Educational Activity” means ANY activity in another state that does or could relate to issuance of degrees or certificates… enrollment in a distance education program, fieldwork, weekend classes, faculty teaching from other states, marketing, and more!

Supervised Field Experience

Programs and courses incorporating “supervised field experiences” that may occur outside the state of Indiana are covered under the provisions of SARA. SARA defines “supervised field experience” as a student learning experience comprised primarily of the practical application of previously studied theories and skills, under the oversight of a supervisor, mentor, faculty member or other qualified professional, located in the host state, who has a direct or indirect reporting responsibility to the institution where the student is enrolled. Examples include practica, student teaching, clinical placements or internships. At PU, supervised field experiences include fieldwork and research designated classes. Independent study type courses are no longer considered supervised field experiences by NC-SARA. Limitation: No more than 10 students from an individual academic program can be placed simultaneously at one clinical or practicum site, unless approval for a larger number is provided by the host state SARA Portal Entity. For information on research classes, refer to SARA Physical Presence Standards subsection 5.12(a)(8) on page two of this document.

Professional Licensure

Professional licensure refers to process of certifying an individual satisfies the minimum standards required for practice in a state. A professional licensure plan is an academic plan designed to prepare students for licensure or certification in an occupation that requires licensure or certification as a condition of employment. Participation in SARA does not satisfy state requirements pertaining to professional licensure. Any institution operating under SARA that offers courses or programs potentially leading to professional licensure or certification must keep all students, applicants, and potential students who have contacted the institution about the course or program informed as to whether such offerings actually meet state licensing or certification requirements. Academic units are responsible for seeking required approvals from state professional licensing boards as needed.

Important Note for Students: If you are considering an online academic program that leads to a professional license, it is highly recommended you contact the appropriate licensing agency where you plan to receive instruction before beginning your academic program. SARA does not provide reciprocity for state professional licensing requirements. Academic programs and individual graduates must meet standards set by that state’s licensure requirements in order for a graduate to be eligible for a license.

SARA Physical Presence Standards (5.12)

SARA provisions do not cover activities that establish a physical presence in other states or territories. Generally, an institution has a physical presence when it operates a branch campus or administrative office within the boundaries of another state. The specific definitions of physical presence currently vary greatly from state to state; therefore, SARA has established its own uniform standard for physical presence vs. distance education.

A) For purposes of SARA, an institution has physical presence and therefore must meet the state’s current non-SARA requirements if it does any of the following:

  1. Establishes a physical location for students to receive synchronous or asynchronous instruction
  2. Requires students to physically meet in a location for instructional purposes more than twice for a total of more than six hours
  3. Establishes an administrative office
  4. Provides information to students for the purpose of enrolling students, or provides student support services, from a physical site operated by or on behalf of the institution in the state
  5. Offers a “short course” that requires more than 20 contact hours in one six-month period;
    a. The 20-hour limited can be used only for a short course that runs for example, four days and is done. It applies only to short courses and cannot be used with a full-term course, to which separate provisions apply.
  6. Provides office space to instructional or non-instructional staff
  7. Maintains a mailing address or phone exchange in a state
  8. Carries out field study or field research located at a field station, research station or other physical site at which a faculty member or other institutional employee or contractor supervises or otherwise directs two or more students in an activity exceeding the allowable short course length set forth in Subsection 5.12(a)(5) and which either bears academic credit or is a requirement for a course or program.

B) An institution does not have physical presence, and is therefore covered by SARA in SARA member states, if it is only:

  1. Offering courses to individuals via distance education in ways that do not require students to gather physically in groups, excepting the special provisions
  2. Advertising to students whether through print, billboard, direct mail, internet, radio, television
  3. Offering distance education courses on a military base or vessel if enrollment in such courses is limited to active and reserve military personnel, their dependents, and civilian employees of the installation
  4. Maintaining a server, router or similar electronic service device housed in a facility that otherwise would not constitute physical presence
  5. Having faculty, adjunct faculty, mentors, tutors, recruiters or other academic personnel residing in a member state and working from their homes or another private, non-institutional site, provided that such staff is not engaged in activities that would otherwise constitute physical presenc
  6. Holding proctored exams on behalf of the institution in the host state
  7. Having contractual arrangements in the home or host state
  8. Operating limited supervised field experiences
  9. Using recruiters in a SARA member state. This provision is not restricted to recruiting for courses or programs offered under SARA, and does include athletic recruiting.
  10. Engaging in field trips to visit existing sites or facilities for academic purposes not involving the establishment of residential or instructional facilities.