The MHEC State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (M-SARA) is an interstate compact that addresses institutional need for state authorization between member states. On a national level, SARA oversight occurs through the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). The national council works with the regional compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB, & WICHE) to administer SARA agreements for their member states.

Illinois passed the Illinois Distance Learning Act, Public Act 098-0792, in 2014, paving the way for Illinois’ participation in SARA. Illinois became a SARA state in July, 2015, through the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC). The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) is the authorizing agency for higher education in Illinois and is the lead/portal agency for Illinois participation in SARA.

The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is approving SARA applications for Illinois community colleges. Any other Illinois institution will seek approval through the IBHE SARA process.

Community colleges will pay an annual fee to NC-SARA for participation after ICCB approval. The rates are:

  • $2,000 annually, institutions under 2,500 FTE
  • $4,000 annually, institutions between 2,500 & 10,000 FTE
  • $6,000 annually, institutions 10,000 and above FTE

Community College Application Process
Download the Unified SARA Agreement and the NC-SARA Application.

  1. Read the M-SARA Agreement.
  2. Complete pages 1 – 5, attesting to agreement with the specific items of SARA participation.
  3. Gather copies of your ICCB Recognition Certificate and HLC Accreditation.
  4. The names provided as the principal and secondary SARA contacts on page 4 are who will receive information from NC-SARA on payment and final approval.
  5. Read the C-RAC Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education.
  6. Evaluate online courses or programs that lead to professional licensure that would require student notification for SARA students. Develop an internal process to be used to identify and notify those students in advance of coursework. (NC-SARA Application Item 10).  See this NC-SARA posting regarding licensure for additional information
  7. Read the IBHE Administrative Rules, 23 Ill. Adm. Code 1033, covering Illinois institutions participating in SARA (beginning page 6042).
  8. Add a link to ICCB’s student complaint page to your college’s student complaint page, with information letting SARA students know they can contact ICCB for complaints following completion of the college complaint process.

To submit a community college application, email the below information to the ICCB SARA contact at the bottom of this page.

  1. Pages 1 – 5 of the completed NC-SARA application.
  2. Copies of your ICCB Recognition Certificate and HLC Accreditation.
  3. A statement of agreement to abide by the IBHE Administrative Rules covering Illinois institutions participating in SARA.
  4. The link to your college’s student complaint page with updated information to include how out-of-state distance education students can file complaints in their home state and through ICCB.
  5. The link to your college’s professional licensure page with information on the states for which your programs meet their licensure requirements, do not meet their licensure requirements, or if it is unknown if they meet their licensure requirements.

Applications will be reviewed within 10 business days and colleges will be notified by email of approval/disapproval or receive a phone/email request for follow-up information.

ICCB will transmit approvals to IBHE, who will then transmit final approval to NC-SARA. NC-SARA will then communicate final approval with the college and how to complete the payment process.

Application Renewals
SARA participation is an annual process. Institutions will follow the process above annually to reaffirm participation and pay the NC-SARA fee. Colleges will be notified by NC-SARA 90 days prior to the need for renewal.

Student Complaints
Out-of-state students taking distance learning courses who have a complaint can contact ICCB for a review of the complaint. Students should follow the directions on ICCB’s student complaints page. ICCB staff will review the complaints and provide guidance to the student.

Application submissions, information requests and questions should be addressed to:

Jeff Newell
Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives

List of Illinois Institutions
A list of approved, participating Illinois institutions can be found on the NC-SARA site at