New SARA FAQs

SARA staff have developed new FAQs based on questions received. These FAQs focus on SARA and the states and SARA and institutions. If you have a question, please email: information@nc-sara.org

SARA AND THE STATES

Do the SARA standards cover recruitment activity by a SARA-authorized institution in a non-SARA state?

No.

Does SARA have a minimum number of states necessary to trigger operations under SARA, or does reciprocity among member states begin as soon as at least two states join?

There is no minimum. Reciprocity among member states begins for those states as soon as they join. SARA will therefore become operational as soon as at least two states join, expected in spring, 2014.

Does SARA mandate how states establish their in-state fee structures for SARA-related work?

No. States may use any fee structure that is rationally related to the state's actual or projected workload. 

Can a state increase its bonding or reserve fund requirement on institutions for which it is the home state in order to cover the potentially greater risk owing to the state’s expanded responsibility for the institution’s multistate distance education offerings?

Yes. The state is allowed to establish necessary oversight of its own institutions that choose to operate under SARA. It may charge necessary fees to do this, including any necessary bonds.

Is the state portal agency ultimately responsible for ensuring that a valid complaint results in proper redress?

Yes. Although the portal agency can delegate responsibility to investigate and resolve such complaints to another government agency (e.g., a Board of Regents) or to a special body created to handle SARA complaints for a group of institutions, SARA requires that the portal agency have and retain the function of hearing any appeals from decisions made by other agencies. The portal agency cannot merely have advisory powers; it must have the formal authority to remove any institution, public or private, from the state’s list of SARA-eligible providers if that institution fails to abide by SARA policies and standards.

If a state joins SARA, does the state give up its ability to investigate misrepresentation, fraud or other illegal activity by colleges based in other states?

No. A state retains the ability to use any of its general-purpose criminal or consumer protection laws against a college that violates those laws. What the state gives up is the ability to apply to SARA institutions laws specifically directed at colleges offering distance-education activity into the state; such oversight is centralized in the college’s home state.

If a state requires an out-of-state college to register with the secretary of state or other state registry and/or appoint an agent in the host state, does SARA affect that requirement?

No. SARA is designed to simplify regulatory oversight of interstate operations by education agencies. It does not affect the applicability of general-purpose state laws such as business registries.

SARA AND INSTITUTIONS

If an institution is covered by SARA for its interstate distance education offerings, does its interstate advertising and recruitment for its on-ground courses also fall under SARA?

All interstate recruitment activity by a SARA-authorized institution in another SARA member state falls under SARA policies and standards. This includes college fairs, recruitment for campus-based programs in another state and recruitment for distance education programs. Note that all recruitment by a SARA provider therefore must meet the SARA standards for accuracy, truthfulness, etc. NCS 4

Recruitment by a person acting in a state for courses offered at a physical campus in the same state is not covered by SARA.

NOTE: This interpretation revises and changes the original SARA staff opinion expressed in the fall 2013 FAQs.

If a SARA participant college offers a non-credit clinical or field placement in another SARA state, is that covered by SARA?

Yes.

If a college has a pre-existing contract for placement of students in clinical sites, and that contract allows for more students or a longer period of time than SARA allows, does participating in SARA invalidate the contract?

No. SARA has no effect on pre-existing contracts of this nature. However, such contracts must be in compliance with existing state law in the state where the clinicals take place at the time the institution begins operating under SARA. When such a contract is revised or renegotiated, and both states are SARA members, SARA rules apply to future contracts. 

NOTE: SARA staff intends to recommend to the National Council for SARA a policy that will set a limit to the length of time that an “auto-renewal” contract that is not in compliance with SARA can run. Proposed language will be made available for comment in that process.

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