State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement

Policymakers attending The Council of State Governments’ National and CSG West 2014 Annual Conference in Anchorage, Alaska, will have an opportunity hear about a new distance learning compact being developed by CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts....

Since its founding, CSG’s Compact Center has worked to promote the use of interstate compacts as an ideal tool to meet the demand for cooperative state action.  During that time there have been approximately 180 adoptions of CSG supported compacts, including 10 separate adoptions of different projects during the 2014 legislative session. Two of those compacts have expanded to all 50 states, while the Educational Opportunity for Military Compact has now grown to 48 states.  Below is a summary of various CSG compact projects.

Indiana became the first state to join the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) this week.  SARA was developed as a joint effort between the Presidents’ Forum, the Council of State Governments, the Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education, and the four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). 

A report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office endorsed the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) as a way for states and institutions to more effectively address the challenges of offering distance education programs across state borders.  The report, which is entitled Oversight of Private Colleges in California, concluded the following with respect to SARA:

Crady deGolian, Director of CSG's National Center for Interstate Compacts, outlines the top 5 compacts to watch in 2014, including those dealing with the siting of electricity transmission lines,  interstate reciprocity regarding online education, and several compacts related to licensing, including EMS licensing, medical licensing, and physical therapy and telepsychology licensing compacts. 

The country needs a comprehensive national authorization and regulatory model for long-distance education that will serve all interested states, accommodate all sectors of higher education and support quality, Paul Shiffman, executive director of The Presidents’ Forum, said Friday.

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) will be highlighted at The Council of State Governments’ 2013 National Meeting in Kansas City.  The session is scheduled from 2- 4 p.m. on Friday, September 20.

State policymakers can learn more about a compact to streamline the process for authorizing online degree programs across state lines during The Council of State Governments’ 2013 National Conference in Kansas City from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 20. Drafters of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA as the agreement is called, hope it will increase access to degree attainment and reduce costs for students, states and institutions.

The Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts is working with several stakeholder groups on issues ranging from electric transmission lines, distance learning, and licensing of EMS and other medical services personnel. Find out more about compacts relating to these issues, all of which are in various stages of development.

The US Dept. of Education recently announced a series of public hearings to solicit comments on a host of topics, including, but not limited to:


  • State Authorization
  • Gainful employment;
  • Credit Hour Conversions; and
  • Campus Safety.

The first of these hearings occurred May 21 in Washington, DC.  In the course of the discussion Department officials received considerable testimony about state authorization, including the difficulties of complying with varying state authorization requirements for institutions wishing to offer degree programs in multiple states.  During the testimony there was considerable support for The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and other forms of interstate compacts that would allow states to govern distance learning short of federal regulations.