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Distance Education

State Authorization Compliance

State authorization is a legal issue regarding an educational institution’s adherence to the requirements necessary to secure authorization to offer instruction and other educational endeavors outside of their home state. Every state has the authority to regulate which postsecondary institutions offer education within its boundaries, including online programs and courses. State authorization compliance is a federal regulatory program (Higher Education Act of 2008, Amended 2010) that requires all institutions of higher education, as a condition of receiving funding for federal financial aid, to be authorized in and by each state in which they offer educational activities. The need to seek state authorization for educational activities depends on a combination of each state’s laws and the activities that a course, program or institution is conducting in that state. Educational activities include, but are not limited to: advertising, clinical placements, Distance Education programs, externships, faculty residing outside of North Carolina, internships, marketing, non-classroom experiences, online degree & courses, practica, proctoring, professional licensure, recruiting.

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance education. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered in other states, to give them confidence that programs in other states are properly authorized and thus to improve the quality of online education.

North Carolina is a member state of SARA, through the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Elizabeth City State University 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.

Student grievances against Elizabeth City State University, including claims that their rights under law or university policy have been violated, may be resolved by a two-step process.

Step 1 – All Students (Excluding Military Affiliated Students; see below):

The initial responsibility for the complaint resides with the institution. Thus, your first step as a student, regardless of location, is to follow Elizabeth City State University Student Grievance Procedures. Student complaints and grievances can be submitted by using the ECSU Fillable Complaint Form.


Contact Information for Student Complaints and Grievance Process

Mrs. Dana Poole

Interim Executive Director of Student Success and Retention

Dr. Trina Gregory

University Program Specialist



Contact information relating to non-academic grievances can be found on the Safe ECSU website. (For Nature of Report, select Other).

Step 2 – Your Location Determines Your Next Step:

  • Most Out-of-State Students: If your complaint is not resolved at the institutional level (Step 1), then out-of-state students residing in NC-SARA (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) states, which includes all states except California, may submit complaints to SARA-North Carolina. SARA-North Carolina operates under NCSEAA (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority). Access the Complaint Form at SARA-North Carolina Student Complaint Process web page.
  • Contact Information for NCSEAA c/o SARA North Carolina:
    North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints 
    c/o Student Complaints
    223 S. West Street, Suite 1800
    Raleigh NC 27603

Toll free: 855.SARA.1.NC (727.2162)
Local: 919.549.8614, ext. 4667
Fax: 919.248.6667
Email: information@saranc.org

Although students are required to file their complaints with SARA-NC, students can also submit a complaint to their home state as well. Students who reside in California must file a complaint against the institution in their home state of California.  Students living outside of North Carolina, also have the right to file a complaint in their home state as well. If you wish to file a complaint in your home state regarding an institutional complaint, please view your State and agency Contacts.

  • North Carolina Residents: If your complaint is not resolved at the institutional level (Step 1), then you may refer your complaint to the North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaint Process of the Licensure Division of the University of North Carolina System Office. The policy is at Student Complaint Policy (PDF); the complaint form is at Student Complaint Form (PDF).
Southern Association of College and Schools Commissions on Colleges (SACSCOC)
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, GA 30033
Telephone: (404) 679-4500
Complaint Procedures Against SACSCOC or Its Accredited Institutions
A student who participates in the Military Tuition Assistance Program (TA) or is a Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Scholarship recipient, at Elizabeth City State University may submit a complaint through the Department of Defense – Postsecondary Education Complaint System. This process is for students who find that ECSU failed to follow the Principles of Excellence.  The system was created to provide these military affiliated students the ability to report misleading or unfair actions by institutions.  Examples of the types of educational related complaints that may be reviewed by the Department of Defense include, quality of education, financial issues, recruiting and marketing practices, refund or collection issues, and others as you may review on the Department of Defense Military One Source website for the Postsecondary Education Complaint System.
Upon receipt of a student complaint, the Department of Defense representative will work with the student’s institution and provide the student with a response to the complaint.  The student will receive a response to the complaint. A military affiliated student who is receiving Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits, may need to submit a complaint to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Those students receiving assistance through Montgomery or Post 9/11 GI Bill® may submit their complaint to the VA that will review the complaint and seek response to the student’s complaint by ECSU.  Elizabeth City State University will review and communicate with the student, with a response to the complaint.  The VA will communicate with the student to learn if Elizabeth City State University’s response is satisfactory, but they have indicated the communication will be for tracking purposes only.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA . More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov /gibill.
For more information, please contact:
Raymond Broughton

Student Affairs
117 Griffin Hall

Trina Gregory

University Program Specialist
HL Trigg Building, Suite 102