State Authorization and Complaint Resolution
The U.S. Department of Education requires an institution offering distance education programs or on-ground field experience components to acquire authorization from the states in which it operates. Specific regulations vary from state to state. Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College) is working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, as well as agencies within states and territories, to comply with required authorizations, so that we can provide educational access to students across the country. PA College will continue to make a good faith effort to pursue state authorization from all states and districts of the United States and its territories.
Why It Matters To You
Before PA College can accept an enrollment from an online student for either a program or a course, the college must be in compliance with the regulations regarding distance education in the state in which the student resides. The same is true for face-to-face students who wish to complete field experiences (internship, clinical, service learning project) in a state other than Pennsylvania. If you have questions about the status of PA College’s state authorization standing in a specific state, click the “State Authorization” tab above. For additional information, contact the Admissions Office at 800-622-5443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In compliance with U.S. Congressional House Rule (HR) 668.43 (b)and U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) rules, an institution offering distance education must “provide its students or prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accreditor and with its State approval or licensing entity and any other relevant State official or agency that would appropriately handle a student’s complaint.” For complete details regarding the student complaint process, click the “Complaint Resolution” tab above.
Accreditation and Professional Licensure
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). MSCHE is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to Middle States accreditation, many of our academic programs are also accredited by their respective agencies. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education has authorized the college to offer a variety of associate, baccalaureate and graduate degree programs, as well as certificate programs in health care.
PA College is approved to offer programs that may lead to licensure/certification in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, PA College cannot confirm that our programs meet the requirements for licensure/certification in all other states, but is in the process of doing so (see the State Authorization tab above for more). Academic programs and individual graduates must meet standards set by that state’s applicable licensing agency, in order for a graduate to be eligible for a license. If you are considering one of our online nursing programs that leads to a professional license, please contact Admissions for information regarding our status in your state. You may also contact the appropriate licensing agency where you plan to receive instruction before beginning your academic program (see National Council of State Boards of Nursing for state-by-state listings).
Because authorization is an evolving area, please check this site again for the latest statement from PA College. For questions or concerns specific to the state authorization approval process, contact Admissions. If you have questions regarding your ability to enroll in a specific academic program given your state of residence, please contact PA College Admissions at 800-622-5443 or email@example.com. For additional information regarding state authorization, click the “Resources & Guidance” tab above.
PA College is authorized to provide online education to students from all SARA member states, which currently includes those noted on this map.
State Authorization Compliance
Federal and state regulations require that all institutions of higher education comply with existing state laws regarding distance learning. As these regulations are continuously evolving, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College) makes every effort to maintain compliance where feasible. PA College has developed a network of compliance officers, state regulators, and public interest groups to make the most informed decisions about these issues. PA College works with regulatory agencies in each state and U.S. Territory to seek authorization, exemption or permission to offer distance education programs, courses and certificate programs to residents who wish to enroll in our distance learning education programs.
State Authorization for Distance Education Programs and Students
All U.S. States and Territories require post-secondary educational institutions to be legally authorized to provide post-secondary educational instruction in their geographic locale. Many of these state laws and regulations also apply to online, distance and correspondence educational instruction offered in that state. As such, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and its online/distance education programs must be authorized in certain states prior to offering those courses or programs to students residing in those states.
Admission of applicants outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to an online degree, certificate or individual online course offered by Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College), is dependent on PA College’s ability to secure authorization from the applicant’s state of residence, if such authorization is required. PA College delivers online education programs and courses throughout the United States. All programs have been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. However, many states have prescribed an “authorization” process for out-of-state institutions delivering online programs to their residents to ensure quality post-secondary education, to preserve the integrity of an academic degree, and to instill greater consumer protection for its student citizens. PA College has taken steps to protect its students and operations through nationwide compliance: by participation in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA); obtaining authorization, approval, exemptions and waivers; or confirming that Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences can operate without such authorization because the state’s laws do not pertain to an accredited institution or to PA College’s activities in that state.
State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA)
The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is a national initiative to provide more access to online courses while maintaining compliance standards with state regulatory agencies. SARA allows institutions to provide online courses outside of their own state borders by seeking and maintaining state approvals via a streamlined process.
On October 27, 2016, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) approved the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to join SARA. PA College received notice of application approval on December 7, 2016 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). On December 28, 2016, the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) approved our institutional participation. As a result, PA College is now permitted to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). NC-SARA is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. Institutions that are members of SARA are authorized to provide online education to students from all SARA member states. States and institutions that choose to become members of SARA operate under a set of policies and standards overseen by NC-SARA and administered by four regional higher education compacts. For more information about the SARA initiative and the progress of state and institutional membership, please visit: nc-sara.org.
SARA Member States Currently authorized SARA member states include those noted on this map, which is maintained by NC-SARA.
Student and Faculty Location
Educational activity under SARA is deemed to occur where the student is physically located at the time the student is in contact with the educational provider or a contractor acting on behalf of the provider. The student’s legal state of residence is not a factor in determining physical location for purposes of SARA. Additionally, PA College may employ faculty who live outside Pennsylvania to teach in programs offered under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE IN STATES OUTSIDE OF PENNSYLVANIA
SARA does not provide reciprocity for state professional licensing requirements. Academic programs and individual graduates must meet standards set by that state’s applicable licensing agency, in order for a graduate to be eligible for a license. If you are considering one of our online nursing programs that leads to a professional license, please contact Admissions for information regarding our status in your state. You may also contact the appropriate licensing agency where you plan to receive instruction before beginning your academic program (see National Council of State Boards of Nursing for state-by-state listings).
In accordance with Federal rule 34 CFR §668.43 (a)(5)(v)(A) through (C), enacted July 1, 2020, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is required to disclose information regarding our programs that can lead to professional licensure and certification. PA College is working to establish a resource through which each program that leads to professional licensure and certification will be identified by one of three statuses by state:
1. Has determined that its curriculum meets the state educational requirements for licensure or certification;
2. Has determined that its curriculum does not meet the state educational requirements for licensure or certification; and
3. Has not made a determination that its curriculum meets the state educational requirements for licensure or certification.
As of 7/5/2020, PA College has not made a determination that its curriculum meets the state educational requirements for licensure or certification for any of the applicable programs in the following states (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY).
* PA College is exempt from authorization requirements in the state of Alaska. PA College’s online distance education programs are exempt from authorization under AS14.48 because the program is online or distance delivered and does not have a physical presence in the state of Alaska. 20 AAC 17.900 (a)(12) defines physical presence as presence of a facility, equipment, faculty, or staff within the state.
** This institution is authorized by: The Indiana Commission for Higher Education/The Indiana Board for Proprietary Education, 101 West Ohio Street, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46204-4206
Permanent Residents of Maryland – Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences has applied for registration with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to enroll Maryland residents in our fully-online distance education programs. Per MHEC regulations, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is subject to investigation of complaints by Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General or the Maryland Higher Education Commission. This link provides Maryland students with the appropriate contacts regarding their rights and the complaint/grievance process.
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College) strives to resolve all student complaints in a fair and expedient manner. PA College encourages all current, former and prospective students, regardless of their residency, to FIRST submit any grievances, complaints or concerns directly to PA College. Students who decide to file a formal complaint as an academic or nonacademic grievance must follow the process detailed in the Student Grievance policy, which can be found on the PA College portal. Concerns should be expressed as soon as possible after the event occurs; some of the procedures below have specific deadlines for filing grievances or complaints.
If a student feels that the issue remains unresolved after reasonable effort to follow the College’s internal grievance procedures, the student may contact these entities to file a formal complaint:
- Pennsylvania Department of Education – Postsecondary and Adult Education; 333 Market Street, 12th Fl.; Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333; Phone: 717.783.8228, Fax: 717.722.3622, firstname.lastname@example.org;
- PA College’s accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, located at 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Phone: 267.284.5000, email@example.com;
- Appropriate agency in their residential state (see listing below);
- Pennsylvania’s SARA Portal Agency at PDE-SARA.
For a student who is unable to resolve a complaint via the above channels, please review NC-SARA complaint information at:http://www.nc-sara.org/content/sara-and-students.
Out-of-State Complaint Resolution Contacts
Distance students residing outside of Pennsylvania may file a formal complaint with their home state authorizing agency, ideally after exhausting internal avenues, by using the links below:
Please explore these resources to learn more about what institutions of higher education must do to meet the requirements of state and federal regulations:
WCET is a national, member-driven, non-profit which brings together colleges and universities, higher education organizations and companies to collectively improve the quality and reach of e-learning programs;
SHEEO is an advocate for state policy leadership, as a liaison between states and the federal government, as a vehicle for learning from and collaborating with peers, and as a source of information and analysis on educational and public policy issues;
NC-SARA is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of distance education (on October 27, 2016, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) approved the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to join SARA).