What Is State Authorization?

States may require out-of-state institutions to obtain authorization to offer postsecondary education in accordance with its laws and regulations. State regulations vary from minimal to very strict requirements. In the majority of states, the need to seek authorization depends on the specific combination of that state’s laws and the activities an institution is conducting in that state. Those activities derive from how the state defines “operating,” “physically located,” or “physical presence.”

What Does It Mean To “Operate” In a State or To Have a Physical Presence “Trigger?”

Each state statute defines “operating,” “physically located,” or “physical presence” differently including, but not limited to:

  • Offering distance education
  • On-ground recruiting
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Test proctoring
  • Employing faculty in that state
  • Internships, externships, field experiences, and clinical practicums.

Kellogg Community College must comply with all regulations and receive authorization from a state before allowing students to participate in any educational activities through the college.  While these regulations initially applied only to online education, it now applies to courses in campus-based programs that include internships, co-ops, student teaching, clinical placements, and/or field experiences occurring in states outside of Michigan.  Conducting state authorization analysis is necessary any time a student is engaging in educational activities outside of the state of Michigan.

States expect that institutions obtain approval before enrolling students, advertising, marketing, or performing other regulated activities in their state. The requirements as to which activities need authorization, the application processes, and the costs to comply vary greatly from state to state.

What Is the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)?

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) established uniform standards for physical presence. Michigan became a SARA state in August 2015, and The University of Toledo became a SARA institution in August 2015.  Through reciprocity, an institution authorized under SARA in its home state would be considered authorized in all other SARA states. Currently, the only non-SARA state is California. Refer to the NC-SARA Institution Directory for state-specific information.

Additional Information About State Authorization:

WCET — State Authorization of Institutions for Out-of-State Activities*

*Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is a program unit of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA)

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) — State Authorization of Postsecondary Education