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Reducing Costs for Higher Ed: New Research Confirms Value of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements

Updated by on Wed, 08/25/2021 - 13:33

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April 21, 2021                                                               


   Reducing Costs for Higher Ed: New Research Confirms Value of State                                            Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
Report details how SARA helps participating colleges and universities save a                                                  combined $133 million annually

BOULDER, COThe National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), in partnership with the National Center for Higher Education Management (NCHEMS), today released a new report that illustrates how SARA participation helps colleges and universities lower costs and reduce bureaucracy.

NC-SARA commissioned the report, entitled “Game Changer: The Value of SARA Participation,” from NCHEMS to assess the specific cost savings for SARA participating institutions. The report estimates a total cost savings across all SARA participating institutions of more than $402 million for initial authorization and approximately $133 million annually on renewals.

“We’ve known anecdotally for years that SARA is helping institutions streamline costs and save time – after all, that’s the foundation of our work – but this is the first time we’ve conducted a true analysis of the specific numbers,” said Dr. Lori Williams, president and CEO of NC-SARA. “As the report confirms, SARA participation can make a tremendous difference on an institution’s bottom line, freeing up resources that can instead be dedicated to students, faculty support, technology, or other needs to assure quality distance education.”

Williams continued, “We’re grateful to the institutions that participated in the data collection for this report for all their hard work and insight and look forward to hosting a webinar on Monday May 17 to dive deeper into the report findings and the overarching value of SARA. We’re also deeply appreciative of the research expertise NCHEMS contributed to this project.”

Read Game Changer and the Institution Cost Savings Technical Report.

Key findings of the research, which compiled data from 171 SARA-participating institutions, include:

  • $11,221 vs $219,000: The SARA institutions that participated in the cost savings survey pay between $3,351 and $11,221 for initial authorization. The average estimated amount these SARA institutions would be required to remit to obtain initial authorization to offer interstate distance education programs if they did not participate in SARA is $219,000.
  • $11,033 vs $75,000: Depending on total student enrollment, SARA institutions pay between $3,258 and $11,033 annually to renew their authorization. The average estimated amount these institutions would pay annually to renew their authorizations as a non-SARA participant is $75,000.
  • $402 million: The estimated total cost savings across all SARA participating institutions is $402 million dollars on initial authorization and $133 million dollars annually on renewal.
  • $100,000 vs $12,000: On average, regardless of institution enrollment, initial authorization to offer interstate distance education nationally will cost an institution over $100,000, compared to less than $12,000 for SARA participation.

As one institutional leader summed up their SARA experience, “SARA has been a game changer. People need to appreciate it; it reduced the bureaucracy, fees, and staff time.”

Sally M. Johnstone, president of NCHEMS added, “We’ve known SARA was a game changer for opening access to quality higher education for students across the nation, but now we can demonstrate the actual reduction in costs to individual institutions.”

Williams concluded, “By making it simpler and less cost-prohibitive for institutions to offer quality distance education programs across state lines, NC-SARA is helping to broaden students’ access to higher education while also ensuring more efficient, consistent, and effective regulation of these learning opportunities. With more students taking advantage of distance education programs, this work is absolutely essential to our overarching goal of expanding access and affordability across the postsecondary system.”

To learn more about NC-SARA, visit To view the Game Changer and the Cost Savings Technical Report and to register for the May 17 webinar, click here.

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The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is a voluntary, interstate reciprocal approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts (MHEC, NEBHE, SREB and WICHE) and coordinated by NC-SARA. States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states, and better resolution of student complaints.