Online Institutions and Exempt Schools

​​Online Institutions

Online institutions may or may not need EAP approval depending on their SARA status. See below for more information regarding online schools.

The EAP is providing the following information to help institutions understand Wisconsin's regulatory requirements related to offering programs to Wisconsin students via distance learning. Unless your institution is a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) participant, it must be approved to enroll Wisconsin students in online programs. Institutions do not need to have physical presence in Wisconsin to trigger the need for approval by EAP.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Wisconsin became a member of SARA on August 15, 2016 through the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC). The Wisconsin Distance Learning Authorization Board (DLAB) has been designated the portal agency for SARA – the entity responsible for coordinating SARA activities in Wisconsin. The DLAB website provides additional information.

Although federal rules specify that institutions must have state authorization to offer programs via distance learning when it is required by the state, such approval has always been required in Wisconsin. Under Wis. Stat. §440.52(2), "[t]he board shall protect the general public by inspecting and approving private trade, correspondence, business, and technical schools doing business within this state, whether located within or outside this state,...and courses of instruction offered by the schools and regulate the soliciting of students for correspondence or classroom courses and courses of instruction offered by the schools.

Exempt Schools

Depending on the type of programs you serve you may not require EAP approval to conduct education in Wisconsin. Under current law, certain schools are exempt from EAP regulatory authority. The following is a listing of the types of schools arranged by exemption category.

Public Colleges and Universities

The UW System Colleges and Universities and Wisconsin Technical Colleges are governed by separate public boards.

Schools Regulated by other State Agencies

Cosmetology, Barbering, and Real Estate schools are currently regulated by other departments in the Department of Safety and Professional Services. Schools that offer certified nursing assistant training are regulated by the Department of Health Services.

In-State Nonprofit Colleges

Schools that are exempt from taxation under section 501 of the IRS code and either were incorporated in this state prior to January 1, 1992, or had their administrative headquarters and principal place of business in this state prior to 1970 are not subject to EAP oversight. This exemption is intended to apply to schools who are members of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

SARA Participant Schools

Institutions that are State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) participants are not subject to EAP approval. The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements maintains a list of SARA participants.

Religious Schools

The EAP does not regulate schools of a parochial or denominational character offering programs having a sectarian objective. For example a course for bible study would not require EAP approval. A Business Management course at a religious school would need EAP approval as that program is not related to the ministry.

Avocational Schools

The EAP does not regulate schools offering instruction that is recreational in nature and does not lead to a vocational objective.


Special Note: To help schools determine if they are subject to EAP approval, a  flow chart providing an overview of the need for approval has been created.​