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State Authorization

In July 2016, South Carolina became a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and Clemson University became an approved SARA institution in August 2016. By being a member, we established standards for offering post-secondary e-learning courses and programs in all member states.

What is State Authorization and SARA?

State authorization is a legal term for a college's compliance with individual statutes and regulations in each state in which it operates, has a physical presence, or engages in educational services and programs. This means certain Clemson University activities are allowed in all listed SARA states. This agreement among member states establishes comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts, and more information can be found on the NC-SARA website.

The map below identifies SARA member states. While California and Massachusetts are not members of SARA, Clemson University has obtained authorization to offer courses and programs to students who reside in each of those states. For more information concerning Clemson University offerings and restrictions, click on the state where you will be physically located while enrolled in courses or programs.
sara play map Washington Oregon Idaho Montana Wyoming Nevada Utah Arizona California Oklahoma Texas Colorado New Mexico North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Alaska Hawaii Alabama Arkansas Connecticut Washington, D.C Delaware Florida Georgia Illinois Indiana Iowa Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michegan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri New Hampshire New Jersey New York North Carolina Ohio Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina Tennessee Vermont Virginia West Virginia Wisconsin Virgin Islands Guam Puerto Rico American Samoa Northern Mariana Islands

What does this mean to me?

  • Students

    State authorization refers to the processes institutions must follow to ensure all legislative requirements are met in all states where Clemson University students are located. Clemson University is a SARA approved institution and follows the required guidelines. For more information about SARA, please visit the SARA website.

    Professional Licensure/Certifications/Field Experiences

    Clemson University programs currently lead to the recommendation of licensure or certification in the state of South Carolina. For students outside of SC interested in academic programs or courses that lead to professional licensure, certifications, or contain field experiences (internships, co-ops, clinical or student teaching placements, etc.), it is imperative you understand the regulations for your state PRIOR to enrolling in any academic program or course. For your convenience, please check on the licensing requirements for the state where you will seek employment. If you experience difficulty finding the requirements for a specific state, please contact the program's advisor for help.

    International Students

    Clemson University works to provide global access to its online programs. It is the student’s responsibility to understand current circumstances or special requirements of whether the online degree selected will be recognized in the country of residence; how the collection of student data may be used in your country; and, whether you will be subject to additional withholding taxes in addition to the price of tuition. International students considering an academic program that leads to a professional license should first confirm with the appropriate professional licensing board in their country of residence whether a Clemson University degree is recognized when seeking licensure or certification.

    Policy for Student Complaints and Grievances

    Students who have a complaint against Clemson University should first file a complaint with the institution by following the institution's complaint process. If Clemson University does not resolve the complaint, students who reside in a SARA state may file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. The SCCHE will only consider complaints that were previously unresolved by the University. For additional information about complaint policies, using the map above, click on the state where you are physically located while taking courses.

  • Faculty and Staff
    • State authorization applies to any university activity that occurs outside of South Carolina, and can include activities such as recruiting, advertising, internships/practicums, or experiential learning.
    • State authorization regulations apply to all out-of-state university activities, regardless of a programs availability online or on-campus.
    • Regulations on out-of-state activities vary from state to state, and from program to program. While some states require any activity conducted by an out-of-state institution grounds to seek authorization, many states apply conditional rules, known as "physical presence triggers."
    • As with most state authorization issues, these triggers are dependent on the type of program, duration of activity, state of residence for the student, and other factors that must be evaluated individually to determine whether authorization will be required.
    • The resources below provide departments and faculty with basic information regarding Clemson Universities’ authorization status (including approved, exempted, or triggering activities) in other states and should be used as guidelines. Please verify authorization prior to all out-of-state activities. Regulations and requirements can change quickly, and Clemson Online can provide you with the most current information.

    Physical Presence

    SARA defines the following as "physical presence" triggers within SARA states.

    • Establishes a physical location for students to receive synchronous or asynchronous instruction.
    • Requires students to physically meet in a location for instructional purposes more than twice per full term (quarter or semester) course for a total of more than six hours.
    • Establishes an administrative office.
    • Provides information to students for the purpose of enrolling students, or provides student support services, from a physical site operated by or on behalf of the institution in the state.
    • Offers a “short course” that requires more than 20 contact hours.
    • Provides office space to instructional or non-instructional staff.
    • Maintains a mailing address or phone exchange in a state.

    The following activities do NOT trigger "physical presence" within SARA states.

    • Offering courses to individuals via distance education in ways that do not require students to gather physically in groups, excepting the special provisions in Section 6(1);
    • Advertising to students whether through print, billboard, direct mail, internet, radio, television or other medium;
    • Offering distance education courses on a military base if enrollment in such courses is limited to federal employees and family members;
    • Maintaining a server, router or similar electronic service device housed in a facility that otherwise would not constitute physical presence (the presence of a server or similar pass-through switching device does not by itself constitute the offering of a course or program in that state).
    • Having faculty, adjunct faculty, mentors, tutors, or other academic personnel residing in a member state (the presence of instructional faculty in a state, when those faculty teach entirely via distance-education and never meet their students in person, does not establish physical presence for purposes of this agreement).
    • Holding proctored exams on behalf of the institution in the host state.
    • Having contractual arrangements in the home or host state.
    • Offering educational field experiences for students, including an educational field trip arranged for a group of students that are normally in residence at an institution in another state.
    • Operating limited supervised field experiences (internships, co-ops, clinical or student teaching placements, etc.). For purposes of this agreement, interstate supervised field experiences originating from campus-based programs in a member state are considered to be distance education and not to establish physical presence if they place fewer than ten students from each program in a member state who are physically present simultaneously at a single facility or site in a host state, and do not involve any multi-year contract between a sending institution and a field site.

    Currently, physical presence triggers in non-SARA states include:

    StateAdvertising TriggerInternship Trigger
    California No No
    Massachusetts Yes, Systematic and targeted advertising may trigger the need for approval No

    Additional Information
    Clemson Online Headquarters
    502 Lebanon Road
    Pendleton, SC 29670
    Phone: 864-656-9320
    Fax: 864-656-2586


Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at the following address and/or phone number for questions about Clemson University Accreditation.

Commission on Colleges
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, Georgia 30033-409