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State Authorization

State Authorization Details

State Authorization Compliance 

State Authorization compliance is a federal regulatory program and part of the Higher Education Act of 2008, Amended 2010. The regulatory program requires authorization of all higher education institutions in and by each state where they offer educational activities. 

The need to seek state authorization for educational activities depends on each state's laws and the actions that a course, program, or institution is conducting in that state. Educational activities include, but are not limited to: 

  • Advertising 
  • Clinical Placements 
  • Distance education programs 
  • Externships 
  • Faculty Residing Outside North Carolina 
  • Internships  
  • Marketing 
  • Non-Classroom Experiences  
  • Online Degrees and Courses  
  • Practicums
  • Proctoring  
  • Professional Licensure  
  • Recruiting  

State Authorization is a legal issue and a form of consumer protection that guarantees that all educational institutions will follow that state's regulations. It is about protecting students and demanding quality. 


The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories in the United States which establishes comparable national standard. SARA establishes national standards for interstate postsecondary distance education, including:

  • Courses
  • Programs
  • Uniform physical presence triggers
  • Oversight of ground activities

SARA aims to simplify taking accredited online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. It is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education overseen by a national council (NC-SARA).

North Carolina is a member state of SARA, through the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).

The State of North Carolina is a member-state in the SARA compact, and UNC Wilmington is a participating institution in this agreement. As a result, students who live in other states participating under SARA can take distance-based courses at UNC Wilmington, and their state’s higher-education agency will recognize those courses.

As of February 8, 2017, UNCW is approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Current authorized SARA member states include 49-member states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Currently, California is the only non-SARA state; however, UNC Wilmington offers distance programs in the non-SARA state of California pursuant to state exemptions.

Federal regulations require UNCW to provide current and prospective students with the contact information for filing complaints with the educational institution, its accrediting agency, and state agencies that handle complaints in students’ states of residence.

UNCW remains committed to promptly responding to complaints with minimum distress and maximum protection for all parties involved. To that end, students are encouraged to utilize the following process for resolving student complaints at the University:

  • Students should put all concerns in writing
  • Carefully document the events that led to the complaint or grievance
  • Refer to the UNCW Grievance Procedure in the UNCW Code of Student Life [PDF] (page 132) if you have an experience that is not covered by the Grade Appeals process

UNCW's Dean of Students office is located on-campus at 1092 DePaolo Hall Wilmington, NC 28403. The office may be reached by phone 910.962.3119 or by email.

If a complaint cannot be resolved after exhausting UNCW's procedure, the student may file a complaint with the following agencies:

North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints Unit

Students can file a complaint online. If students need more information, visit NC Post-Secondary Education Complaints Unit's website.

North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints

North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
c/o Student Complaints
223 S. West Street, Suite 1800
Raleigh, NC 27603


Regional Accreditor (SACSCOC)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Student Complaints
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, GA 30033-4097


If a student has evidence that an institution is in significant non-compliance with SACSCOC standards, policies, or procedures, the individual should inform SACSCOC using the Complaints Against Institutions Information Sheet and Form [PDF].

For Unresolved Complaints for Online Learners Residing Outside of North Carolina

Students may also appeal to the post-secondary licensing agency where they reside if they followed the complaint resolution process but are not satisfied.

Students not residing in North Carolina and enrolled in a SARA North Carolina institution may submit complaints to NCSEAA only after completing the complaint process established by the institution attended by the student.

We direct you to SARA-North Carolina and to the Complaint Process and SARANC Complaint Form [PDF].

SARA North Carolina

North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority
c/o SARA North Carolina
P.O. Box 41349
Raleigh, NC 27629

855.SARA.1.NC (727.2162)
919.549.8614, ext. 4667

UNC Wilmington programs that lead to a professional license or certificate intend to prepare a student for potential licensure or certification in North Carolina.

UNC Wilmington programs meet the relevant academic requirements for the licensure or certification board/agencies in North Carolina.

As of July 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education requires us to meet federal disclosure regulations under 34 CFR 668.43(a)(5)(v). UNCW must provide information to students indicating whether completion of one of these programs meets the educational requirements for licensure or certification in each U.S. state and territory. If you are considering a degree program that could potentially lead to a professional license or certification, please note UNCW may not be able to advise whether a program meets requirements outside of North Carolina. The programs are making reasonable attempts to determine this for each state and territory. Please check back with your program for updates. Review the professional licensure disclosures status by state for your intended program. The state disclosure spreadsheet indicates:

  • Meets - curriculum meets state educational requirements
  • Does Not Meet - curriculum does not meet state educational requirements
  • No Determination - the program has made no determination if the curriculum meets educational requirement in the state

Changes in state laws or regulations may affect eligibility for licensure, and individual program assessments may be updated in the future. Prior to enrolling in a degree program, please discuss this important topic with your program of interest.

Note: If you are planning to seek a professional license or certification outside North Carolina, you need to know the state's specific requirements in which you intend to apply for licensure or certification.

UNC Wilmington is currently working to determine if programs meet requirements for professional licensure outside of the State of North Carolina.

We highly recommend that students enrolled in licensure or certificate programs contact officials within the specific academic program for assistance with professional licensure questions. These program officials can also provide enrollment options before beginning an academic program.

Students can also obtain additional help by contacting UNCW's State Authorization compliance specialist at 124 Hoggard Hall, Wilmington, NC 28403. Call 910.962.3826 or email prior to enrolling to confirm program eligibility for licensure in any state outside North Carolina.

Note: The curriculum for all UNC Wilmington academic degree programs meets the requirements in North Carolina and prepares students to sit for licensure/certification exams in North Carolina. The various licensure boards in each state are responsible for setting requirements for licensure/certification in their state.

If you are a student studying at a distance with the intent of returning or moving to any state other than North Carolina, please explore the unique licensing board requirements for that state. Prior to enrolling in a degree program, please discuss this important topic with your program of interest.

To learn about the appropriate licensing or certification organizations and the requirements, browse the contact information for professional licensing boards or certification organizations.

For Education & Teaching Programs

Each state has its own specific licensing and certification requirements for all educators. If you are considering teaching outside the state of NC, verify that UNCW's program meets specific state requirements prior to enrolling.

UNCW Watson College of Education

Dr. Martin Wasserberg, BA Elementary Education
601 S. College Road Wilmington, NC 28403-5940

Dr. Shelby Morge, BA Middle Grades Education
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5940

US Department of Education

For Nursing Programs

Nursing has unique requirements in every state. If you are considering nursing outside of the state of NC, check state-specific requirements prior to enrolling in UNCW.

UNCW School of Nursing

Dr. Matthew J. Gallek, PH.D., RN 
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5995

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

For Nurse Educators

Nurse educators have unique requirements in each state. Ensure that UNCW's programs meet the requirements where you will practice and teach.

UNCW School of Health and Applied Human Services School of Nursing

Dr. April Matthias
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5995

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

For Nurse Practitioners

You may be considering practicing outside of North Carolina, so it's important to verify that UNCW's program meets the requirements where you will be practicing.

UNCW School of Health and Applied Human Services School of Nursing

Dr. Sara L. Hubbell, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC, FNP-C
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5995

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

For Social Work Programs

Social workers are required to hold specific state licensing. Prior to enrolling in UNCW, please verify that the program meets the requirements where you are considering becoming a social worker.

UNCW School of Social Work

Dr. Stacey R. Kolomer, PH.D.,MSSW
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5979

Association of Social Work Boards

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