Online Education

State Authorization

What is State Authorization?

State authorization is a legal issue regarding an educational institution’s adherence to the requirements necessary to secure authorization to offer instruction and other educational endeavors outside of their home state. Every state has the authority to regulate which postsecondary institutions offer education within its boundaries, including online programs and courses. State authorization compliance is a federal regulatory program (Higher Education Act of 2008, Amended 2010) that requires all institutions of higher education, as a condition of receiving funding for federal financial aid, to be authorized in and by each state in which they offer educational activities. The need to seek state authorization for educational activities depends on a combination of each state’s laws and the activities 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 & Courses
  • Practical
  • Proctoring
  • Professional Licensure
  • Recruiting
  • State Authorization Compliance

    State Authorization allows UNCW to offer educational opportunities to students outside North Carolina and nationwide. Each state has unique authorization requirements, so UNCW must review each state’s laws and rules to ensure that the university complies. Our team is dedicated to researching regulations and seeking and maintaining approvals, so you can participate in programs offered at UNCW wherever you are.

    Requiring authorization of educational programs also ensures that students are protected as consumers. Authorization laws help ensure that a student is not investing in a program that is not legitimate or a program that does not lead to the license or credential that the student was expecting.

    Federal and State Regulations on ‘State Authorization’ of Distance Education.

    Because authorization is an evolving area, please check this site frequently for the latest statement from UNCW.

  • 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 and other interstate educational activities including but not limited to uniform physical presence triggers and oversight of ground activities for both DE and campus students. It is intended to simplify the process of taking online courses for credit offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education and is overseen by a national council (NC-SARA) and administered by four regional education compacts. North Carolina has been accepted as 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 that are also participating under SARA can take distance-based courses at the UNC Wilmington and be assured that those courses will be recognized by their state’s higher education agency. While participating in SARA, UNC Wilmington also continues to monitor rules enforced by state boards that regulate distance-based nursing education across the country.

    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.

  • UNCW Policies and Procedures

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

    UNCW remains committed to providing learning environments in which complaints are responded to promptly and with minimum distress and maximum protection to the parties. To that end, students are encouraged to utilize the following process for resolving student complaints at the University.

  • Contact Information for Filing Complaints

    UNCW provides several means by which student complaints and grievances may be addressed. In all cases, students are advised to put their concerns in writing and carefully document the events that led to the complaint or grievance.   If you are enrolled in UNCW courses and you have a complaint about your experience other than that covered by the Grade Appeals procedure, please refer to the UNCW Grievance Procedure in the  UNCW Code of Student Life (page 134).  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 described above, the student may file a complaint with the following agencies:

    1. North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints Unit in accordance with the process and form for complaints and at the following. 

    • North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
    • c/o Student Complaints
    • University of North Carolina System Office
    • 910 Raleigh Road
    • Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688
    • 919-962-4558
    • email:

    2. Regional Accreditor (SACSCOC), SACSCOC Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Student Complaints, 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097 Telephone 404.679.4500. 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.

    3. Students engaged in online learning, residing outside of North Carolina while attending UNCW, who followed the above Complaint Resolution process but whose initial complaint was not resolved to their satisfaction may also appeal to the post-secondary licensing agency in the state in which they reside. As required by federal regulations, we direct you to UNCW's list of state agencies for filing student complaints.

    4. Students not residing in North Carolina and enrolled in a North Carolina institution that operates under SARA North Carolina 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 page and SARANC Complaint Form.

    • SARA North Carolina - North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA)
    • P.O. Box 14103
    • Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
    • T: (855) SARA-1-NC (727-2162) T: (919)549-8614, ext 4667
    • email:
  • Institutional and Professional Licensure Disclosures For Enrolled and Prospective Students

    If you are a student or prospective student interested in an educational program that may lead to professional licensure or a certification, please be aware that as of July 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education requires that all higher education institutions advise students as to whether their curriculum provides them with the eligibility to apply for a professional license and/or certification in the state for which they plan to practice. 

    UNC Wilmington programs that lead to a professional license or certificate are intended 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. However, they may or may not meet the educational requirements for a licensure or certification in another state.  Refer to UNC Wilmington's list for the current status of educational requirements disclosures.

    If you are considering a degree program that may, would, could or potentially lead to a professional license and/or certification, please note that at this time UNC Wilmington may or may not be able to advise whether a program meets requirements outside of North Carolina. 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, it is important for you to know the specific requirements of the state in which you intend to apply for licensure or certification.

  • Professional Licensing Boards and Program Contacts

    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 progam for assistance with professional licensure questions. These program officials can also provide you with enrollment options prior to beginning an academic program.  Additional help can also be obtained by contacting UNCW's State Authorization compliance specialist  in 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.

    Important Note for Students: The curriculum for all UNC Wilmington academic degree programs have been designed to meet the licensure/certification requirements in North Carolina and prepare 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.  

    To learn about the appropriate licensing or certificate organizations and the requirements, contact information for professional licensing boards or certification organizations is found below:

    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

    UNCW School of Nursing

    Dr. Nancy Ahern, RNBSN

    601 S. College Road

    Wilmington, NC  28403-5995


    National Council of State Boards of Nursing

    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

    UNCW School of Health and Applied Human Services School of Nursing

    Dr. Kelly Laham

    601 S. College Road

    Wilmington, NC  28403-5995


    National Council of State Boards of Nursing

    UNCW School of Social Work

    Dr. Kristin Bolton

    601 S. College Road

    Wilmington, NC  28403-5979


    Association of Social Work Boards


    If you are considering a degree program that may, would, could or potentially lead to a professional license and/or certification, please note that at this time UNC Wilmington may or may not be able to advise whether a program meets requirements outside of North Carolina. Prior to enrolling in a degree program, please discuss this important topic with your program of interest