State Authorization (UT SARA)

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. SARA policies help protect students and provide guidance for institutions involved in distance education in multiple states.

The Utah System of Higher Education is the agency designated to serve as the UT SARA portal entity — the Utah point of contact for students and institutions for SARA questions, complaints and other communications. USHE works closely with the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection to ensure complaints against schools relating to fraud, false advertising, or other deceptive practices are resolved according to state statute as well as NC-SARA policies.

SARA is also intended to ensure students enroll with reputable institutions.  Institutions that choose to participate in SARA are required to follow policies and standards established by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).

A list of all participating states and institutions are maintained by NC-SARA.
NC-SARA Policies and Standards for Institutions

To be eligible to participate in SARA, an institution must:

  1. Are located in a SARA member state;
  2. Are a degree-granting institution, appropriately authorized by Congress, a U.S. state, territory or district, or a federally recognized Indian tribe to award associate degrees or higher;
  3. Are institutional accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and whose scope of recognition, as specified by the U.S. Department of Education, includes distance education; and
  4. As a non-public institution, meet the institutional financial responsibility requirements for SARA participation.

The president or chief academic officer of each institution participating in SARA attests that their institution meets and agrees to comply with the following standards:

  1. Online learning is appropriate to the institution’s mission and purposes.
  2. The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining, and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes.
  3. Online learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight.
  4. Curricula for the institution’s online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive, and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats.
  5. The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online learning offerings, including the extent to which the online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.
  6. Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.
  7. The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings.
  8. The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings.
  9. The institution assures the integrity of its online offerings.


NC-SARA provides an in-depth description of institution standards.

UT SARA Complaint Process

UT SARA is the initial contact point for complaints about Utah SARA institutions resulting from distance education courses, activities, and operations. As the state portal agency, UT SARA serves as the final decision-maker on SARA-related complaints.

To file a SARA complaint, you must:

  • File within two years of the date of the incident;
  • First file and follow through with the institution’s complaint process. If the complaint is not resolved after going through the institutional complaint process, students may file with UT SARA.
  • Address a complaint that the institution violated a standard or regulation of the terms of SARA (see institution eligibility in section 3 of SARA manual); and
  • Be a student at a UT SARA institution:
    • Utah students may not use UT SARA to complain about distance education courses offered by a Utah institution, only distance education courses offered by a postsecondary institution in another state.
    • Students outside Utah involved with distance and correspondence education from a UT SARA institution may file a complaint with UT SARA. They can also file a complaint with their state’s enforcement authority.

Once a complaint is filed, UT SARA will conduct a review within five business days.  If the complaint fits within the SARA jurisdiction, investigation and follow up will take place.  If the complaint does not fall under the SARA jurisdiction, it may be referred to another entity for investigation and follow up.

  • Complaints covered by the student code of conduct, such as grade grievances or conduct issues – that have not been filed with the institution — will be referred to the institution. Students should follow an institution’s process for filing a complaint.
  • Complaints relating to fraud, false advertising, or other deceptive practices will be referred to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection:
  • Complaints relating to an institution’s quality of education may be referred to the institution’s accreditor.