In August 2021, we will publish “Breaking Down Barriers: The Impact of State Authorization Reciprocity on Online Enrollment,” by James Dean Ward, Heidi Booth, Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta, and Benjamin Weintraut.


State authorization, or the approval by a given state for a college to operate within its jurisdiction, is an important part of the regulatory triad. The triad is the three-pronged oversight of higher education that includes the federal government, accrediting bodies, and state governments. State authorization has become more complicated with the rapid expansion of online education that is blurring state geographic boundaries. Colleges seeking to enroll students from numerous states in online programs must obtain authorization in each of those states. The National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) seeks to limit this burden on colleges and expand access to online education to students who may have limited postsecondary options. This study examines the relationship between NC-SARA participation and online enrollments. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that colleges joining NC-SARA experience growth in students enrolling in online courses, that early adopters experience larger growths in enrollments, and that enrollments increase overtime. We do not find evidence that for-profit institutions, colleges with large pre-NC-SARA online enrollments, or colleges that are highly reliant on online education benefit more than others from joining the agreement.