State Authorization and Student Complaints about Delivery of Distance Education

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is a voluntary agreement among member states, districts, and territories in the United States, which establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs. It is intended to simplify the process of taking online courses for credit offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. SARA is overseen by a national council (NC-SARA) and administered by four regional education compacts.

North Carolina is a member state of SARA, through the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) is a participating institution of SARA and authorized to offer distance education courses and programs to students located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Federal regulations require that institutions provide both current and prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with the educational institution, with its accrediting body and the appropriate state agency for handling complaints in the state where a student is located.

If you have a complaint about UNC-Chapel Hill’s Online and Distance education courses/programs, the following options are available to you:


Student Complaints

Step 1: All Students

All students, regardless of physical location, should first seek resolution for complaints by speaking with the department chair or program director. Many times this can be resolved if a student makes an appointment with the department chair or program director and communicate their concerns. If an issue cannot be resolved at this level, there are several means by which a student may address complaints. A comprehensive resource list on student complaint and grievance procedures can be found on the Office of Ethics and Policy website, which will bring student complaint or concern to the appropriate individual(s) or office(s) for resolution. Students may also contact the Office of the Dean of Students for advice on which procedure to follow.

For questions regarding student complaints related to Online and Distance Education courses/programs offered by UNC-Chapel Hill or SARA-related issues, please contact Assistant Provost for Institutional Research and Assessment, Dr. Lynn Williford, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, by mail: 311 Henry Owl Building, CB# 3350, Chapel Hill, NC  27599-3350; email: OIRA@unc.edu; or phone: 919-962-1500.

Step 2: Determined by the Student’s Physical Location

Located outside of North Carolina: If a complaint cannot be resolved through the institution’s complaint process (Step 1), then students located in NC-SARA states, which includes all states except California, may submit complaints to State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements – North Carolina (SARA-NC). SARA-NC operates under the authority of NCSEAA (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority).

SARA-NC Contact Information

SARA North Carolina
NC State Education Assistance Authority
PO Box 41349
Raleigh, NC 27629

Located in North Carolina: If a complaint cannot be resolved through the institution’s complaint process (Step 1), students may file a complaint with the North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints unit

Submit the complaint to:

North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
c/o Student Complaints
University of North Carolina System Office
223 S. West Street, Suite 1800, Raleigh, NC 27603
919- 962-4550 (ask for the Complaints unit)

Additional Resources for Student Complaints

Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice. To file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice, please visit State Attorney General’s File a Complaint, selecting the General Consumer Complaint Form under “Complain Online.” Students located in North Carolina may call 877-566-7226; if calling from outside North Carolina, please dial 919-716-6000.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters, educational specialist, and doctorate degrees. Degree-granting institutions also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website www.sacscoc.org. The SACSCOC complaint process and form may be accessed from their website.

State Portal Agency Contact Information: NC-SARA provides a complete list of relevant agencies with contact information for each NC-SARA state.

NC-SARA Contact Information

National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity
3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 130
Boulder, Colorado 80301

Student Complaint Information by State and Agency


Professional Licensure Disclosures

Professional Licensure/Certification

UNC-Chapel Hill offers various academic programs leading to professional licensure/certification. These programs are designed to prepare a student for potential licensure/certification in the State of North Carolina. However, they may or may not meet the educational requirements for a licensure/certification in another state. If you are planning to seek a professional license/certification outside North Carolina, it is important for you to know the specific requirements of the state in which you intend to apply for licensure/certification.

UNC Professional Licenses & Certificate Programs — November 2022

Contact information for state professional licensing boards


Prospective and current students should keep in mind that licensing requirements vary by state and that relocating during the course of a program to another state could impact whether a student can continue in the program, meet the eligibility requirements of that state, and/or receive financial aid funding. If students are considering relocating, they should contact their program to check for licensure eligibility requirements.

International Students

Prior to enrolling in any program at UNC-Chapel Hill, prospective students living and/or working outside of the United States should confirm with the appropriate certifying agency whether successful completion of any degree program at UNC-Chapel Hill will meet the credentialing requirements of the country in which they intend to seek employment, as to certain types of employment or for advanced/specialized educational programs.

Distance and Online Education

Carolina has a growing selection of online graduate and undergraduate programs for academic credit. The University’s professional schools and Center for Continuing Education also offer a limited selection of distance programs in other formats for special populations, as well as a broad range of noncredit distance education programs.

Learn more about Carolina’s distance and online education programs.