State Authorization of Distance Education

Almost every state has regulations governing distance education; these rules require higher education institutions that offer distance education to state residents to obtain authorization or other approval from the state. The regulations are a consumer protection measure against ‘bad actors’ in the distance education industry, and were highlighted in Program Integrity rules issued in October 2010 by the federal Department of Education.

IRAP coordinates the UC response to these various sets of regulations, rather than having each UC online program, each UC Extension program, and each UC summer session do this same work multiple times. Since UC is a single legal entity, there may also be significant financial savings if UC can apply for approvals as a system rather than as individual entities.

Because of the variety of distance education authorization regulations among the states, the burden for higher education institutions of compliance with multiple state regulations in multiple jurisdictions is significant. To address this, a Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education has proposed the formation of a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), under which states agree on uniform standards for state authorization of distance education.

The Commission proposed the formation of a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), under which states agree on uniform standards for state authorization of distance education. When a higher education institution meets the standards in its home state, it is authorized to offer distance education in other states that are parties to SARA.

IRAP is involved in the effort to make California a SARA participant. It is simultaneously undertaking UC compliance with state regulations on behalf of all UC campuses where allowed (some states require individual campus compliance). IRAP is working with several UCOP and campus departments, including the Office of General Counsel, University Extension, and UC Online, to meet state authorization requirements.