State Authorization

SARA-North Carolina

On June 9, 2016, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) approved the North Carolina application to join the National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Our state portal is located at the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). NCSEAA began accepting applications beginning October 1, 2016, from accredited higher education institutions in our state. Participation is a decision to be made by each local college. Applications may be submitted at any time.

The acronym for our state authorization organization is SARA-NC (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements of North Carolina). To join SARA-North Carolina, institutions will be required to complete a detailed application and supporting documentation. The application may be viewed at NC-SARA Institutional Application.

Legislative Status

Published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016, the US Department of Education (DOE) announced its final regulations (Final Rule) to become effective July 1, 2018. In addition to the changes to §600.9, a new section, §668.50 (Institutional disclosures for distance or correspondence programs) has been added to the Title 34 regulations. As the December 2016 requirements are not due to be enforced until July 2018, there is a strong likelihood that the Rule will be revisited or changed. These changes could come within the next HEOA re-authorization or the new Secretary of Education may choose to amend or eliminate it. Additionally, as it was issued within the last 60 days of an administration, it could be reviewed through the Congressional Review Act. (NOTE: As of February 2017, the steps within this Guide reflect requirements currently in place. Revisions will be made as more guidance becomes available on the 2016 Final Rule.) The new regulations specify requirements for post-secondary institutions who participate in Title IV Federal student aid programs and offer distance education and offer some direction on how to meet these requirements. While not going into specifics, in general the Final Rule:

  • Requires an institution be authorized in its home state, as well as documents where distance students reside (if the students’ states requires such authorization).
  • Recognizes that reciprocity agreements meet that authorization requirement.
  • Requires each institution to document and confirm that each state in which it enrolls students has an adequate student complaint process.
  • Expands the gainful employment certifications to include any state from which a student enrolls.
  • Requires the institution to track students’ states of residence during their enrollment.
  • Specifies requirements for institutions with foreign branch campuses.

Summary

State Authorization came to the forefront with the 2010 amendment of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). This action brought attention to the various existing state laws which governed educational offerings within each state and has resulted in states re-examining their regulations and their enforcement. This site is an attempt to help the member institutions of the North Carolina Community College System make informed decisions regarding state authorization activities.

This site includes information for both curriculum and continuing education/non-credit offerings, reciprocity agreements, state information resources, and a sample pathway to compliance with state authorization requirements.