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Distance Education

The Bureau of Postsecondary & Adult Education processes requests from out-of-state degree-granting institutions seeking authorization by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to offer courses or degree programs via distance education to Pennsylvania residents. A registration process is available to confirm compliance with federal financial aid rules.

Register as an Out-of-State Distance Education Provider

With the passage of Act 55 of 2017, non-SARA institutions who wish to register as out-of-state providers of distance education to Pennsylvania residents must pay a fee of $5,000.00 annually per institution for permission to access the PA State Distance Education Registration online system. Payment must be sent, in the form of a cashier’s or certified check made payable to PA Department of Revenue, to:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Attn: Distance Education
333 Market Street, 12th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
The check should accompany a letter identifying the individual to whom permission to access the online registration system will be given, and that individual’s contact information, including telephone number and email address. Questions may be addressed to

State Authorization Reciprocity agreement (SARA)

Act 35 of 2016 was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on June 1, 2016 authorizing Pennsylvania to join SARA.  For more information and the process to participate, please go to SARA.

Definition of Distance Education

The regulatory definition of distance education provided in 22 Pa. Code §31.2 is:

Distance education -- An alternate format to resident-based instruction for offering education courses or series of courses by an approved postsecondary educational institution, consortium of institutions or educational enterprise, for which credit is offered or awarded toward a certificate, diploma or degree, which has as its primary mode of delivery one or more of the following:

  1. Correspondence.
  2. Television.
  3. Videocassette or disk.
  4. Film.
  5. Radio.
  6. Computer.
  7. Devices built upon an audio-video format.
  8. Other supportive devices using current or future technology.

The working definition of distance education is the delivery of instruction for academic credit when the instructor is physically located at an address that differs from the physical location of the student at the time of instruction.


Distance education providers must be accredited by an accrediting agency that is approved by the United States Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

No unaccredited institutions or institutions accredited by an unapproved accrediting agency may offer distance education in Pennsylvania for academic credit or a degree.

Teacher Preparation

Out-of-state teacher certification program providers offering Pennsylvania certification must meet all Pennsylvania program approval requirements. Please contact the Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality at (717) 787-3470 for information on teacher preparation.

Employment of Faculty in Pennsylvania

Distance education providers are not required to have PDE approval to employ faculty members who might reside in PA or be located in PA when they provide instruction via distance education.


Out-of-state institutions are not required to have PDE approval to place students in internships in Pennsylvania. Students are not required to have PDE approval to arrange their own internship in Pennsylvania. Businesses are not required to have PDE approval to accept interns.

The institution and the student are responsible for ensuring that an internship, externship, preceptorship or practicum placement complies with all legal requirements specific to the field of study and all professional licensing and certification standards.

If an institution employs or pays representatives with a physical presence in Pennsylvania to support internships, that institution may have established a physical presence in Pennsylvania requiring approval as an Education Enterprise under Chapter 36.


Out-of-State degree-granting institutions are not required to have PDE approval to advertise in Pennsylvania. Out-of-state non-degree career and technical schools are required to be registered with the Private Licensed School Board if they have a physical presence to advertise or recruit in Pennsylvania.

Degree-Granting Authority

Authorization as a distance education provider in Pennsylvania does not convey Pennsylvania degree-granting authority.

Physical Presence

The regulatory definition of physical presence provided in 22 Pa. Code §31.2 is:

Physical presence—The operation of an entity that offers courses, programs, or degrees or maintains a campus, or an administrative, corporate or other address, including a post office box, telephone number, recruiters, instructors, advertising in local media and publications at a location in this Commonwealth.

Confirmation as a distance education provider in Pennsylvania does not permit a physical presence in Pennsylvania. Approval of a physical presence to offer courses is required under Chapter 36 or Chapter 73.

If an institution employs or pays representatives with a physical presence in Pennsylvania to support internships, that institution may require approval as an Education Enterprise under 22 Pa. Code Chapter 36.