State Authorization & SARA

Students on laptops

North Dakota State Authorization & Exemption for Degree-Granting Post-Secondary Institutions

Any institution offering post-secondary degrees in the State of North Dakota must be approved by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. The State Board has been authorized to regulate colleges and universities with either a physical or online presence in North Dakota by North Dakota Century Code Chapter 15-18.1. To be approved, institutions must be accredited by a federally-recognized accreditation agency and have a Federal Financial Responsibility Composite Score greater than 1.5 to be authorized. All institutions must be fully authorized before advertising or offering post-secondary education in North Dakota.


State authorization is required for any institution offering courses that can lead to an associate’s degree or higher.


Institutions that are members of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) do not require further authorization.


Career and Technical Education programs are regulated by the North Dakota Career and Technical Education office.


Any institution offering programs that lead to professional certification or registration (e.g. Nursing, Education) is required to comply with North Dakota Century Code 15-18.1-17. By statute the institution is required to give written notification to the student whether their programs meet the requirements of the appropriate professional board in North Dakota, including notification upon any change in this status. Education degree programs must be approved by the Educational Standards and Practices Boards. Nursing programs must be approved by the Board of Nursing.


Accredited institutions that wish to apply:

  • Application for institutions without a physical presence in North Dakota. Internships, field experiences and clinical practice are not considered physical presence.
  • Application for institutions with a physical presence in North Dakota.


Applications or renewals can be completed here.


Any questions regarding this process can be directed to:

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

What is SARA? The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. 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 a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts.


North Dakota has been accepted as part of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) through the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC).


For more information about the NC-SARA, click here.


Institutions Approved for SARA in North Dakota:

Bismarck State College

Dakota College at Bottineau

Dickinson State University

Lake Region State College

Mayville State University

Minot State University

North Dakota State College of Science

North Dakota State University

Trinity Bible College & Graduate School

University of Jamestown

University of Mary

University of North Dakota

Valley City State University

Williston State College

Complaint Process

Complaints to the North Dakota University System (NDUS) office regarding North Dakota degree-granting post-secondary institutions authorized or exempted in NDCC and those participating in the National State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education has delegated to NDUS college and university officials authority and responsibility to resolve student and other complaints. 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 North Dakota institution (private, for-profit, and public) is required to establish, publish, and enforce policies related to redress of complaints and grievances. With limited exceptions, a student or other person who contacts the NDUS office regarding complaints regarding exempted or authorized North Dakota institutions or those participating in the SARA will 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 complaint, NDUS is responsible for final resolution of any such complaints originating at any authorized, exempted, or SARA participant institution, public or private. Conversely, if you are a North Dakota 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.


With the exception of reporting fraud, waste or abuse as noted below, the NDUS does not review anonymous complaints or matters that are or have been in litigation. Further, matters concerning an individual’s grades or examination results are the prerogative of the college/university faculty.


The NDUS does not conduct a judicial investigation or evidentiary hearing. The NDUS 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.


Absent specific statutory authority for not allowing access or disclosure, all documents relating to public business in possession of NDUS employees, including complaints or grievances, responses to complaints or grievances and related documents are open to the public upon request. However, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), student information and records that contain personally identifiable information regarding students, including student complaints or grievances and related documents, are confidential, subject to limited exceptions.


The following contact information has been provided to assist you with directing your complaint to the appropriate agency/office.



For more information, contact:

Claire Gunwall
North Dakota University System
Director of Academic Affairs
600 E Boulevard Ave, Dept 215
Bismarck, ND 58505-0230