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SARA Coverage and Physical Presence Triggers

Out-of-State Activity

While many out-of-state activities are covered through the University of Utah's participation in SARA some activities may need state additional authorization or consultation with the State Authorization Coordinator. Please click on each section below to learn more.

With nearly all states having joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), the University of Utah’s participation in SARA helps to greatly simplify the State Authorization process as we are no longer required to seek authorization state by state. Details for this process can be found in the SARA Policy Manual. Please reach out to the State Authorization Coordinator or refer to the SARA Policy Manual for more details regarding State Authorization.

SARA applies solely to postsecondary distance education activity (including most field placements) conducted across state lines. Notably this means that distance education activities that occur within the state of Utah or outside of the United States would not fall under the provisions of SARA.

Additionally, SARA does not affect the applicability of general-purpose laws such as business registries, general-purpose consumer protection laws, worker’s compensation laws, criminal statutes, and the like.

Participation in SARA does not excuse or exempt programs from requirements for federally funded programs such as Title IV or military tuition assistance. The SARA Policy Manual includes requirements regarding programs that lead to professional licensure, and echo similar requirements regarding professional licensure for Title IV funding.

As defined in the SARA Policy Manual “Physical Presence” is a measure by which a state defines the status of an educational institution’s presence within the state.

Section 5.10 of the SARA Policy Manual further explains

"Generally, an institution has physical presence when it operates a campus, branch instructional facility whether leased or owned, or administrative office within the boundaries of a state. However, because the specific definitions of physical presence currently vary greatly from state to state, especially with regard to out-of-state institutions that seek to conduct any activity within another state, SARA has established its own uniform standards for physical presence vs. distance education. For purposes of participation in SARA, these standards apply, but they do not affect the application of existing state laws to institutions that choose to operate outside of SARA or which are based in states that are not SARA members."

For the purposes of SARA, an institutional activity that meets the standards for physical presence is no longer covered under SARA and therefore must meet the state’s current non-SARA requirements if it does any of these things:

  1. Establishes a physical location (permanent or semi-permanent) for students to receive instruction
  2. Requires students to physically meet in a location (outside of Utah) for instructional purposes more than twice per full-term course for a total of more than six hours (this does not apply to designated short courses)
  3. Establishes an administrative office
  4. Provides information to students for enrollment or student support from a physical site operated by or on behalf of the institution in the state (outside of Utah)
  5. Offers a “short course” (less than a full-term) that requires more than 20 contact hours in one six-month period
  6. Provides office space to instructional or non-instructional staff (outside of Utah)
  7. Maintains a physical mailing address or phone exchange in a state (outside of Utah) (mobile phone use by representatives passing through a state does not violate this section)
  8. Carries out field study or research at a physical site at which a faculty or other staff member supervises two or more students exceeding the allowable short course length seen above.

In short, the primary types of activities that constitute physical presence are those that establish a physical location such as an instructional space or office space. Courses that require students to physically meet outside of Utah should take time to more carefully review these requirements to ensure compliance.

Please note that some of the activities specifically covered by SARA include:

  1. Courses offered via distance education that do not require students to physically meet
  2. Advertising through mediums such as direct mail, internet, print, etc.
  3. Maintaining a server or similar electronic device housed in a facility that otherwise would not constitute physical presence.
  4. Having faculty, adjunct faculty, mentors, recruiters, or other academic personnel residing in a member state and working from their homes or another non-institutional site
  5. Limited supervised field experiences or out-of-state learning experiences
  6. Using recruiters in SARA member states
  7. Engaging in in field trips to visit existing sites or facilities

SARA coverage includes most field experiences that students might participate in. When considering whether field experiences/learning placements in your department are currently in compliance please consider the following:

  1. If the host state requires approval of supervised field experiences by agencies or boards responsible for professional licensing requirements, such approval requirements remain in effect and your department musk seek approval from the relevant agency or board.
  2. A contract for supervised field experiences to be covered by SARA is limited in some ways. Such contracts cannot provide for the placement of more than 10 students from an individual academic program placed simultaneously at one clinical or practicum site, unless approval for a larger number is provided by the host state SARA State Portal Entity. If your department is seeking to place more than 10 students at the same out-of-state site please contact the State Authorization Coordinator.
  3. SARA policies do not supersede, replace, or otherwise modify any federal law that would affect students placed under SARA.
  4. We are obligated to track and report student placements that are: offered for credit and/or a fee; or required for completion of a degree or certificate.


Contact State Authorization
(801) 587-1918

Last Updated: 7/14/23