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State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts.

Colorado is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) through the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE).

How can my institution join SARA? Any degree-granting institution based in the United States, holding proper authorization from Congress, a U.S. state or a federally recognized Indian tribe and holding institutional accreditation from an accrediting association recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education is eligible to apply to its home state to participate in SARA if that state is a SARA member. The accrediting association must have within its scope of recognition, the ability to accredit distance education programs and the institutional accreditation must include the approval for the institution to offer distance education. 

Complaints to the Colorado Department of Higher Education (DHE) regarding Colorado degree-granting post-secondary institutions participating in the National State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is the portal agency for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement and has the authority and responsibility to resolve student and other complaints. Absent applicable law or policy establishing another remedy, the first step in resolving student or other complaints or grievances is to attempt to resolve the matter directly with the administration of the involved institution under established institution complaint or grievance procedures. Every Colorado institution (private, for-profit, and public) is required to establish, publish, and enforce policies related to redress of complaints and grievances. With limited exceptions, a student or other person who contacts the DHE office regarding complaints regarding Colorado institutions participating in the National State Authorization Agreement (SARA) will be referred to college or university officials responsible for resolving those matters. In the event that institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of a SARA complaint, DHE is responsible for final resolution of any such complaints originating at any SARA participant institution, public or private. Conversely, if you are a Colorado resident attending a distance education program at a SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) institution in another state, you will need to begin the grievance process at the institution you attend. In the event that institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of your complaint, the SARA Portal Agency of that state is responsible for final resolution of the complaint.

With the exception of reporting fraud, waste or abuse as noted below, the DHE does not review anonymous complaints or matters that are or have been in litigation. Further, matters concerning an individual's grades or examination results are the prerogative of the college/university faculty.

The DHE does not conduct a judicial investigation or evidentiary hearing. The DHE may conduct a paper review, discuss the matter with the parties and take other steps as may be appropriate in an attempt to resolve the complaint.

Absent specific statutory authority for not allowing access or disclosure, all documents relating to public business in possession of DHE employees, including complaints or grievances, responses to complaints or grievances and related documents are open to the public upon request. However, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), student information and records that contain personally identifiable information regarding students, including student complaints or grievances and related documents, are confidential, subject to limited exceptions.

If you need assistance in determining the appropriate agency/office for your complaint, please contact:

Heather DeLange
Director, Office of Private Postsecondary Education
1600 Broadway, Suite 2200
Denver, CO 80202