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Background on State Authorization Reciprocity

Federal rules require postsecondary institutions offering distance education (e.g., online degrees) to be authorized by any state where the student, not the institution, is located. This requires Wisconsin institutions to comply with a state-by-state regulatory patchwork and pay substantial fees, a cumbersome process that is costly to both colleges and students.

To address this, the regional higher education compacts (Wisconsin is a member of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact or MHEC) organized a network of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements or SARAs. Under these agreements, participating states will recognize the regulations of the home state of postsecondary institutions offering distance learning. The agreements also establish rigorous and consistent consumer protections that must be adopted by any state joining the reciprocity network.

SARA recognizes the evolving role of technology in higher education offerings. Wisconsin students who choose to participate in online higher education offered by out-of-state institutions will be afforded easier access and more protection for quality education under reciprocity. Additionally, students across the U.S. will have the opportunity to access the exceptional educational opportunities offered by Wisconsin-based institutions. Nationally, 41 states have already joined the reciprocity effort and most other states are on track to join.

Wisconsin was approved as an official SARA state by the MHEC on August 15, 2016.