State Authorization

State Authorization FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is state authorization?
What does it mean to “operate” in a state or to have a physical presence “trigger?
What is the state authorization reciprocity agreement (SARA)?
What if we do not comply?
Additional information about state authorization
Is there a contact for more information about state authorization at The University of Toledo?


What is state authorization?

States may require out-of-state institutions to obtain authorization to offer postsecondary education in accordance with its laws and regulations. State regulations vary from minimal to very strict requirements. In the majority of states, the need to seek authorization depends on the specific combination of that state’s laws and the activities an institution is conducting in that state. Those activities derive from how the state defines “operating,” “physically located,” or “physical presence.”



What does it mean to “operate” in a state or to have a physical presence “trigger?”

Each state statute defines “operating,” “physically located,” or “physical presence” differently including, but not limited to:

  • Offering distance education
  • On-ground recruiting
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Test proctoring
  • Employing faculty in that state
  • Internships, externships, field experiences, and clinical practicums.

The University of Toledo must comply with all regulations and receive authorization from a state before allowing students to participate in any educational activities through the University.  While these regulations initially applied only to online education, it now applies to courses in campus-based programs that include internships, co-ops, student teaching, clinical placements, and/or field experiences occurring in states outside of Ohio.  Conducting state authorization analysis is necessary any time a student is engaging in educational activities outside of the State of Ohio.

States expect that institutions obtain approval before enrolling students, advertising, marketing, or performing other regulated activities in their state. The requirements as to which activities need authorization, the application processes, and the costs to comply vary greatly from state to state.



What is the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)?

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) established uniform standards for physical presence. Ohio became a SARA state in March 2015, and The University of Toledo became a SARA institution in August 2015.  Through reciprocity, an institution authorized under SARA in its home state would be considered authorized in all other SARA states. Currently, 47 states are SARA members. The only non-SARA states are Massachusetts and California. Refer to the State Status page for state-specific information.



What if we do not comply?

There are a range of possible penalties for noncompliance with state authorization laws and regulations. They include but are not limited to:

  • Cease and desist letters/orders from state regulators
  • Forced “teach-outs” where the state allows the student currently receiving education in their state to finish but does not allow any other students from the university to attend without authorization
  • Possible fines and institutional sanctions, e.g., institutional enrollment freezes
  • Lawsuits
  • Domino effect with accreditors
  • Damaged reputation!



Additional Information about state authorization:

WCET — State Authorization of Institutions for Out-of-State Activities*
*Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is a program unit of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA)

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) — State Authorization of Postsecondary Education



Is there a contact for more information about state authorization at the University of Toledo?

Contact the Director of State Authorization.



Last Updated: 1/3/23