What is State Authorization?

There are regulations pertaining to post-secondary online instruction. These laws and regulations apply to online, distance, and correspondence educational instruction offered to permanent state residents.

Kentucky is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and Northern Kentucky University is an approved SARA institution. SARA allows institutions to offer distance education courses and programs to other SARA participating institutions and ensures adherence to national standards for postsecondary distance education. We work through the SARA process and with states to ensure that when authorization or licensure of online programs is necessary, required approvals are secured.

It is the student’s responsibility to understand the current status or special requirements related to the authorization of distance education in their state of residence.  For more information about SARA, please visit http://www.nc-sara.org/.

To determine if the online program you are interested in, is available to you based on your residency, please refer to the NKU State Authorization table.

Requirements and restrictions change frequently, so check back often for the status of offerings in your state.

Table Key:

  • √ - NKU currently authorized to offer programs
  • X: NKU not currently authorized to offer programs


  • NKU will make the final determination of whether or not it can offer its online program to students based on their residency at the time of application as regulations may change.
  • If a student’s residency changes during his or her enrollment in an online program, depending on the requirements of the new state of residence, the student may NOT be able to continue the program.
  • In addition to distance education authorization, certain programs may require authorization from a state’s licensing boards. Depending on the state, programs in nursing, education, social work, counseling, allied health professions, and others may require approval from separate licensing boards. Please consult with the appropriate licensing board in your state to determine if requirements exist.
  • For purposes of state licensure, residency means “where an individual will be physically living/located at the time of enrollment.”


Professional Licensure

If considering an academic program that leads to a professional licensure (example: Education or Nursing), it is recommended students first contact the appropriate licensing agency in their home state prior to starting a program outside their state of residency.  It is the student’s responsibility to contact the appropriate licensing entity in the student’s home state to confirm whether a NKU program will meet the requirements for licensure in that state.  Although a program may be available in your resident state, there may be additional obligations required by the institution and NKU has the right to determine if program will be available in state of residence. 

Though SARA authorizes the University to offer its programs in member states, there is the possibility that other state requirements not covered by SARA (such as requirements from state licensing boards) could necessitate the restriction of certain programs in certain states. Please note that should you choose to enroll in a restricted program in a particular state, there may be restrictions that could affect you. Examples could include:

  • you may be unable to sit for local licensing in that state
  • you may be ineligible for consumer protection that state
  • you may not be able to complete field placements (practicum, internship, clerkship, etc.) in that state. This could affect licensure or recognition of the degree to meet particular requirements in that state.

Additionally, if you move during the course of your studies to a state where your program is restricted, please be aware that you are taking a risk that you may not be able to complete that program or use any of the credit earned in that program should you decide to pursue licensing in that field in that state. Please note that the risks listed above are not exhaustive. Please verify with your state’s professional licensing board that your plans are not impacted by these risks.


Distance Education Student Grievance Policy/Procedure

NKU is required to provide all current and prospective out-of-state students with the contact information of the state agency that handles complaints against institutions of higher education within that state. Enrolled students are encouraged to utilize NKU’s internal complaint and review policies.  

Students enrolled in online programs who have complaints, grievances, or concerns regarding courses taken at NKU should are encouraged to utilize NKU’s internal complaint and review policies.  Students should first seek to resolve their complaints through informal discussion. This is the same process for all students enrolled at NKU.  

Complaint Process for Current Residents of Kentucky

The Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is the agency in Kentucky that handles complaints about the Northern Kentucky University and has the ability to act on those complaints from students residing in Kentucky. Students should attempt to resolve the complaint through the established protocol at NKU before contacting CPE.

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
1024 Capital Center Dr. #320
Frankfort, KY 40601-7512
Telephone: (502) 573-1555 
Fax: (502) 573-1535
Email: cpeconsumercomplaint@ky.gov

Complaint Process for Out-of-State Students Residing in SARA States

As the designated portal agency under SARA, the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is the agency that handles complaints about NKU and has the ability to act on those complaints from students enrolled in online programs residing in SARA-member states. Though the final resolution of complaints will be through the CPE, the student’s home state portal agency may also work with the CPE to resolve the complaint. To view a list of SARA portal agencies, please view the NC-SARA States page.

Students who live in a state that has joined SARA (see map for participating states) should follow the procedures listed here to initiate complaints pursuant to SARA policy.

  1. Follow the University’s complaint procedure.
  2. If the complaint cannot be resolved at the University, file a complaint with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the state SARA portal agency:

    Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
    1024 Capital Center Dr. #320
    Frankfort, KY 40601-7512
    Telephone: (502) 573-1555 
    Fax: (502) 573-1535
    Email: cpeconsumercomplaint@ky.gov

  3. If there are concerns that Kentucky is not abiding by SARA policies, appeal to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).
  4. If there are concerns that the SREB is not ensuring that Kentucky is abiding by SARA standards, appeal to NC-SARA:
    National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
    3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 130
    Boulder, Colorado 80301

Notice Regarding State Authorization

Northern Kentucky University recognizes that states have the authority to regulate colleges and universities offering education within that state’s boundaries, which includes regulation of distance learning and online education. NKU is making good faith efforts to comply with the regulations in states where it serves students.

Out-of-state students are advised to check with their post-secondary governing board with specific questions about NKU’s authority to provide specific degree programs. Out-of-state students considering programs that require subsequent licensure by the state of residence (i.e. nursing or education) may also check with the state licensure office.

Click here for state-specific information: State Authorization Directory