Pursuant to Title 5-A DCMR Chapter 83 any postsecondary institution seeking to provide online instruction to a District resident is deemed to be operating in the District whether or not the institution has a physical presence in the District. Prior to providing online instruction, advertising or enrolling students the institution is required to be licensed by the District of Columbia Higher Education Licensure Commission (HELC) or authorized to operate (i.e. via a reciprocity agreement such as SARA).
If an institution is recognized as a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) and if the institution’s DC offerings conform to the requirements of SARA, then there are no additional requirements to operate in the District. Institutions are advised to pay particular attention to the NC SARA Manual Section 5. Coverage and Limitations of SARA to ensure that your institution is abiding by the rules as set forth for institutional participation in SARA. SARA does not cover all activities. Any activity for which the institution engages, not covered by SARA, will require the approval of the HELC. Operating outside of the confines of SARA without a license or other approval by the HELC is illegal in the District of Columbia.
In some instances, exemptions to full licensure may be granted to degree granting institutions, unconditionally accredited by a US DOE recognized entity, based on limited local offerings (i.e. internships, field experiences). To request an exemption refer to the Application for Conditional Exemption or Exclusion. If the institution’s offering are not eligible for an exemption, the institution will be required to seek full licensure through an Application for Provisional Licensure. District law does not provide exemptions based on the number of students or length of the program.