What is SARA?

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 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. Iowa participates in SARA through the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC).   

See the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements web page for a list of out-of-state institutions that are authorized to offer distance education programs to Iowans under the terms of SARA and that are not required to apply for Iowa registration.

What does it cost a school to participate in SARA?

To participate in SARA, an institution must pay an annual fee to NC-SARA. NC-SARA bills each participating institution after the institution is approved for participation (or renewal) by Iowa College Aid. For further information please see nc-sara.org/participation-fees.

Iowa College Aid also charges a SARA fee for Iowa schools that wish to participate in SARA. The annual fee is assessed based on a school’s fall full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), as follows:

  • Under 2,500 FTE – $2,000
  • 2,500 to 9,999 FTE – $4,000
  • 10,000 FTE or more – $6,000

Note: A school that falls under Iowa's registration authorization requirements or voluntarily registers with Iowa College Aid does not pay both a registration fee and a SARA fee.

How do I file a SARA complaint?

Iowa College Aid is the state portal agent for SARA and accepts a student’s questions, concerns, or complaints related to a SARA participating postsecondary school. To file a complaint, go to Student Complaint Form. A student may also contact Iowa College Aid toll-free at 877-272-4456.