State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)
What is SARA?
SARA is a voluntary, interstate reciprocity agreement that establishes comparable standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education. Member states recognize participating institutions that are authorized in other member states. No additional institutional approval process or fees are required to enroll residents of member states via distance education. Participating institutions must obtain approval from home state only, rather than every other state. Institutional participation is voluntary and limited to accredited degree-granting institutions. SARA establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state.
For more information about SARA, and for the current list of participating states and institutions, please visit
Pennsylvania and SARA
Act 35 of 2016 was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on June 1, 2016, to allow Pennsylvania to affiliate with a regional higher education compact and to apply to become a SARA member state.
Pennsylvania was accepted as a SARA-member state on October 27, 2016 with an effective date of January 1, 2017.
Regional Education Compact
Pennsylvania is not a member of a regional higher education compact. Therefore, Pennsylvania is required to affiliate with a compact for the purpose of joining SARA. Pennsylvania has affiliated with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).
Institutions with Physical Presence in Pennsylvania
SARA does not remove the requirement for institutional authorization by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for institutions with a physical presence in Pennsylvania; it simply alleviates the burden on institutions of higher education in the commonwealth to obtain approval from
multiple states to enroll residents in other states.
Distance Education Providers Participating in SARA
Distance education providers that are authorized by a SARA state and accepted as participants
in SARA may enroll residents of Pennsylvania with no additional approval, application, or fees in Pennsylvania.
Distance Education Providers NOT Participating in SARA
At this time, the original fees assessed for institutions to participate in SARA have sunset and are not being collected by Pennsylvania. However, to cover the fee for affiliation with a regional higher education compact and the administrative costs associated with SARA memberships, Pennsylvania is promulgating regulations to establish reduced fees to institutions for participation in SARA:
|$5,000,000— 19,999,999 ||$4,000|
|$20,000,000—39,999,999 ||$6,000 |
|$40,000,000 and over
Institutions may still apply for or renew their membership with SARA. Please note that NC-SARA charges a separate fee of $2,000, $4,000, or $6,000. Institutions must continue to pay this annual NC-SARA fee.
The application process
Current forms and materials should be downloaded for each application and renewal period (the PA Fee above and number 3 below (the PA Supplement) must be completed and submitted with the New application and each year with the Renewal application):
(PDF)Closure and Catastrophic Event Procedures
Students may lodge a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education against any institution located in Pennsylvania. Complaints may be filed by students from any state.