State Authorization Basics
What is state authorization?
What gives states the right to regulate online education?
 The Basics of Postsecondary Authority, WCET/SAN Frequently Asked Questions, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies/State Authorization Network, 1, February 2015.
Why are states regulating online education?
What's the difference between authorized, exempted, and not authorized?
Authorized and exempted statuses allow an out-of-state institution to offer online education and engage in regulated activities. Not authorized status restricts an institution's ability to offer any online education or engage in any regulated activity.
Out-of-state institutions can be authorized two ways. First, institutions may become licensed, registered, or approved in a state, typically through an application process. Second, institutions participating in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) can engage in certain activities in SARA-member states only.
Some states offer exempted from authorization status. Maintaining exempted status requires institutions to avoid or stop engaging in regulated activities as defined by the state.
What is the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)?
Four regional education compacts, including WICHE, manage SARA. The regional compacts approve their states to join SARA. Institutions apply through their portal agency, usually the state's higher education agency, to participate in SARA.
More information, including a list of current SARA-member states, is available at http://nc-sara.org.
What the consequences of non-compliance with state regulations?
Title IV Eligibility
State authorization is a condition to Title IV eligibility. Federal financial aid may be revoked if violations are found. Despite 34 CFR 600.9(c) being vacated on procedural grounds, the Dep’t of Ed believes that state authorization for distance education is still required under the HEA: “[I]nstitutions continue to be responsible for complying with all State laws as they relate to distance education.” DCL GEN-12-13 (Ju. 27, 2012). 
Higher Learning Commission Accreditation (regional accreditation)
State authorization/compliance may be a condition to receiving regional accreditation.
An institution lacks authority to charge students in unauthorized states. Stated differently, students living in unauthorized states are not required to pay their tuition. Additionally, students have the right to be refunded the previously collected tuition. 
Both students and a state’s Attorney General can file lawsuits against an institution. Although there is no record of lawsuits leading to court adjudication, Jeannie Yockey-Fine (Senior Advisor of State Regulatory Services at Cooley, LLP) stated that lawsuits have been filed and settlements have been granted between students and institutions. She stated that students are usually not satisfied with a tuition refund. Furthermore, public state institutions have received cease-and-desist letters and have paid fines to state agencies.
Regulating education falls within a state's “police powers.” States are capable of fining non-compliant universities. Public, non-profit universities have been fined and have paid those fines.
 Greg Ferenbach, Cooley LLP, and others, SARA Understanding the GAPS Presentation, NASASPS Conference in Austin, Texas, April 2016.
,  State Authorization and Professional Licensure, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, webinar, January 13, 2015.
 Alan Contreras, SARA Coordinator, National Council/WICHE, What Can Happen If I Don’t Follow State Authorization Regulations?, WCET blog, March 24, 2015, https://wcetblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/what-can-happen/.
What does 'physical presence' and 'physical presence trigger' mean?
What are the physical presence triggers in the different states?
In non-SARA states, physical presence triggers can include, but are not limited to, the following: experiential learning opportunities (e.g., clinical experiences, internships), advertising and marketing, recruiting (including at college fairs), hiring faculty, and employing preceptors, student aids, or mentors.
In SARA states, physical presence triggers are available at http://nc-sara.org/about/physical-presence-standard.
What happens to an institution’s exempted from authorization status if it triggers physical presence?
Programs Leading to Professional Licensure
What's the meaning of 'programs leading to professional licensure?' Which programs lead to licensure?
Programs must know whether their educational and/or experiential learning components meet a state board's requirements. A professional licensure program must disclose to a prospective or current student whether the program will lead to licensure in the state where the student lives. "Leading to licensure" means that upon completing the program, the student will be eligible to sit for the exam in a particular state.
A list of professions commonly requiring licensure include, but is not limited to, accounting, addiction counseling, architecture, athletic training, dental hygiene/dentistry, dietetics-nutrition, engineering, geology, interior design, landscape architecture, law, marriage and family therapy, medical laboratory sciences, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, social work, speech-language pathology, teaching, and veterinary medicine. A list of additional occupations requiring licensure is available at: http://www.careeronestop.org/toolkit/training/find-licenses.aspx.
What about professions that do not require licensure in Colorado but require licensure in other states?
How does state authorization affect programs leading to professional licensure (e.g., teaching, nursing)?
Any programs leading to professional licensure require both state authorization and state licensure board approval. Professional licensure requirements vary by profession and by state.
In SARA states, programs have already received state authorization and will only need state licensure board approval.
In non-SARA states, programs lack both state authorization and state licensure board approval. Programs will need to seek both before offering online education and enrolling students.
Disclosure and Notification Requirements
What is required in a state authorization disclosure?
What is required in a professional licensure disclosure?
What other related disclosures are institutions required to post?
What are best practices for disclosures and notifications?
Disclosures must be accessible within three clicks of the front page. They must be visible and not buried on a page. Many institutions post a state authorization link on their front page either at the foot of the webpage or as a header or side tab.
Disclosures must be made before a prospective or current student enrolls in a course or program.
Disclosures must clearly and accurately state in which states an institution and/or its programs are authorized and not authorized. Institutions and programs must regularly update this information. Professional licensure programs must also disclose whether the program leads to licensure in a specific state. Specifically regarding professional licensure programs, anything less may be a deceiving statement under the Federal Misrepresentation Rule. Additionally, some state regulations require this level of transparency (e.g., Florida).
What happens if a student moves during her academic career? Who is responsible?
Colorado Specific Regulations
Which Colorado state agency authorizes out-of-state institutions to provide online programs and courses to Colorado residents?
Are institutions that are non-SARA participants allowed to advertise in Colorado?
State Agencies and Institutions
What’s the interplay between state authority and institutional strategy?
Institutional strategy determines an institution's status in each state. Strategy may include offering all programs to to all states or certain states, or offering certain programs in all or certain states. Additionally, the strategy takes into account whether the institution is located in a SARA member state, is a SARA participant, and has applied for authorization or exemption.
Many institutions indicate their programs' statuses in each state through an interactive "state authorization map." As an example, the state authorization maps for Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University demonstrate institutional differences.
Eastern Kentucky University's "State Authorization Map" available at http://ekuonline.eku.edu/state-authorization-status.
(Date accessed May 31, 2016)
Western Kentucky University's "State Authorization Map" available at http://www.wku.edu/dlfaculty/compliance/state_authorization/whatwhere.php.
(Date accessed May 31, 2016)
University of Colorado Specific Questions
Where is the University of Colorado authorized, exempted, or not authorized?
I have more questions. Who can I ask?
Bridgett Yi Murphy, J.D.
State Authorization Compliance Specialist, Office of Academic Affairs
Direct phone line: (303) 860-6128