New Jersey has been accepted as part of the SARA through the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE).
SARA is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. SARA applies solely to distance education activity conducted across state lines. It does not apply to distance education activity of an institution within its home state or to on-ground campuses in any state. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and is administered by four regional education compacts, with the New England Board of Higher Education being the regional entity for New Jersey.
The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) is the New Jersey portal agency for SARA and has the authority and responsibility to resolve student and other complaints made in regard to New Jersey institutions that are operating outside of New Jersey pursuant to SARA. Absent applicable law or policy establishing another remedy, the first step in resolving student or other complaints or grievances is to attempt to resolve the matter directly with the administration of the involved institution under established institution complaint or grievance procedures.
Every institution of higher education in New Jersey is required to establish, publish, and enforce policies related to redress of complaints and grievances. A student or other person who contacts OSHE regarding complaints about New Jersey institutions participating in the SARA will first be referred to college or university officials responsible for resolving those matters.
In the event that institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of a SARA complaint, OSHE is responsible for final resolution of any such complaints originating at any New Jersey SARA participant institution, public or private.
Conversely, if you are a New Jersey resident attending a distance education program at a SARA institution in another state, you will need to begin the complaint process at the institution you attend. In the event that institutional processes do not result in a successful resolution of your complaint, the SARA portal agency of that state is responsible for final resolution of the complaint.
OSHE does not review anonymous complaints or matters that are or have been in litigation, and does not conduct a judicial investigation or evidentiary hearing. OSHE may conduct a paper review, discuss the matter with the parties, and take other steps as may be appropriate in an attempt to resolve the complaint.
SARA Policies and Standards, including those for consumer protection and the resolution of complaints, apply to interstate distance education offered by participating SARA institutions to students in other SARA states. Only those complaints resulting from distance education courses offered by participating institutions to students in other SARA states come under the terms of the agreement. Complaints about a SARA institution’s in-state operations are to be resolved under the state’s provisions, not those of SARA.
Consumer protection within SARA, in addition to dealing with alleged fraudulent activity, also provides for the investigation and resolution of complaints that an institution is operating a course or program contrary to practices set forth in the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education in such a way that a student is harmed. Examples of issues that may arise in regard to alleged fraudulent activity or more general complaints include, but are not limited to:
SARA Complaint Resolution Processes