Every state has the authority to regulate which postsecondary institutions offer education within its boundaries, including online programs and courses. The need to seek state authorization for online learning depends on a combination of each state’s laws and the activities that a course, program or institution is conducting in that state.
UNC Charlotte participates in the national State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA, see additional information below) and is, therefore, authorized to offer online programs and courses in all its member states and territories. California is the only state that is not a member of SARA. UNC Charlotte may offer distance programs in the state thanks to state exemptions. However, the U.S. Department of Education announced on July 22, 2019 that students who reside in California and enroll in out-of-state online programs at a public university, such as UNC Charlotte, are ineligible to receive federal financial aid funding.
STATE AUTHORIZATION RECIPROCITY AGREEMENT (SARA)
The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories in the United States, which establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to simplify the process of taking online courses for credit offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a national council (NC-SARA) and administered by four regional education compacts.
UNC Charlotte was approved to participate in NC-SARA and was accepted as a SARA institution on September 7, 2017.
POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF CHANGING STATE OF RESIDENCE
When you are taking courses online, where you live—the place from which you access academic resources, your state of residence—matters. UNC Charlotte must be authorized (or otherwise allowed) by your state to deliver your academic program to you. The paragraphs above explain where and how the University is authorized. Students who begin an online program while residing in a state in which UNC Charlotte is authorized to offer online programs need to be aware that moving to a state in which the University is not authorized to offer the program may have negative consequences. While the University attempts to obtain authorization everywhere its students live, moving to a state in which the University is not authorized could result in the loss of eligibility for certain forms of financial aid and/or in the inability to complete the academic program.