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Compliance and Ethics


USM is authorized in all states listed as NC-SARA states as an institutional participant (see the Mississippi NC-SARA page). All states are participants in the NC-SARA reciprocity agreement other than California as are US Protectorates U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The other inhabited US Protectorates (i.e. American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands) are not members of NC-SARA. Both Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are sovereign states in free association with the United States and are not members of NC-SARA.

Public institutions are not regulated by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which only regulated for-profit institutions; therefore, all public institutions are allowed to offer distance education to the residents of California.


  • The University of Southern Mississippi is accredited to award baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctorate the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. SARA does not provide reciprocity for state professional licensing requirements. 
  • Contact the Commission on Colleges for questions about the accreditation of the University of Southern Mississippi:
    • By Mail- 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or
    • Call 404.679.4500



To provide education to students residing in other states, which constitutes operating in another, higher education institutions must comply with the laws and regulation of each of the states in which students are located while completing distance education. Distance education includes online as well as supervised field experiences including clinicals, internships, externships, and practicums. Per Section 1 (30) of the National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), operating means any and all activities conducted by an Institution in support of offering Distance Education degree or non-degree courses or programs in a State, including but not limited to instruction, marketing, recruiting, tutoring, Supervised Field Experiences, experiential learning placements, Out-of-State Learning Placements and other student support services.

In addition to being authorized directly or operating pursuant to a reciprocity agreement, an institution must also check with the state professional licensing boards to see if any program that they are offering that involves distance education requires preapproval before a supervised field experience is conduct and leads to licensure in the state the students is located or where they complete their supervised field experience.


Whether or not a higher education institution engages in an action that triggers “physical presence” varies based on the laws of each specific state. Among the activities considered in determining if physical presence is triggered are:

  • hosting short-term, face-to-face, seminars or conferences where students meet in person
  • experiential learning within the jurisdiction (field experience, clinical, internship, externship, practicum) organized by the institution
  • owning property within a state
  • recruiting done in an organized manner, consistently, and on-the-ground either by employees or agents of the institution
  • entering into contracts/agreements with an in-state institution or in-state entity to provide services for students (i.e. library, gym, computer centers, etc.)
  • requiring a student to take a proctored exam at a location or with an entity in the state selected by the institution
  • advertising in local media sources viewed by residents of the state
  • hiring online faculty who live in the state
  • employing mentors, tutors, or preceptors in the state to aid individual students who are residents of the state
  • Courses offered by instructors not residing in Mississippi cannot include face-to-face meetings with students in those other states.
  • The way in which physical presence is defined is different based on the state and would need to be considered in any state in which an institution is authorized so as to abide by the physical presence limitations.
  • Institutional participants to NC-SARA have specific physical presence considerations that must be considered, which are further specified in the NC-SARA section of this page.

If physical presence is triggered, the institution must become authorized in that state.

*State physical presence triggers apply if an institution that is an NC-SARA member exceeds their permitted physical presence in a state based on the NC-SARA guidelines (see NC-SARA paragraph below).


  • If the activities of an institution do not create a “physical presence”, an exception may apply allowing the institution to provide education to students in the state without becoming authorized with the state based on their lack of physical presence.
    • The following list represent the types of scenarios that create exceptions, though exceptions vary on a state-by-state basis:
      • Religious organizations
      • Organizations accredited by an agency approved by the Department of Education
      • Non-degree granting programs
  • Please review the list of states below for more information concerning the University of Southern Mississippi’s compliance with this regulation and to obtain the contact information for the appropriate agency in the state where you reside.
  • We are evaluating and working to comply with the various requirements and are updating this page as additional information is received.


  • National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) commonly known as SARA.
  • SARA represents a reciprocity agreement in which member states agree to grant each other the right to provide online education in other member states subject to agreed upon limitations.
  • Currently 49 states are members of SARA:
  • Mississippi became a member of NC-SARA on 1/1/16.
  • USM applied for and was accepted as a member of SARA on 3/31/16
  • USM is now able to offer distance education (both online and limited field experiences) to students in any SARA State as well as advertising and recruiting as long as we do not engage in any of the following activities within member states:
    • Create a physical location for students to receive synchronous or asynchronous instruction;
    • Require students to physically meet in a location for instructional purposes more than twice per full-term (quarter or semester) course for a total of more than six hours;
    • Establish an administrative office;
    • Provide information to students for the purpose of enrolling students, or providing students support services, form a physical site operated by or on behalf of the intuition in the state;
    • Offer a “short course” that requires more than 20 contact hours in one six-month period;
    • Provide office space to instructional or non-instructional staff;
      Maintain a mailing address or phone exchange in state;
    • Carry out field study or field research located a field station, research station or other physical site at which a faculty member or other institutional employee or contractor supervisors or otherwise directs two or more students in an activity exceeding the allowable short course length set forth in section 5.1 e and which either bears academic credit or is a requirement for a course or program.


Pursuant to the Federal Program Integrity Rules (34 CFR (B)(VI)(668)(F) and NC-SARA (Rule 7.2.1), the following information is provided about programs leading to professional licensure:

  • Licensure is a state-specific determination made by state professional licensing boards based on state-determined criteria.
  • The rules applicable to a licensure application are the rules and regulations that are in place at the time the student applies for licensure.
  • When a student speaks to the state professional licensing board, the professional licensing board may require the student to inform them of whether or not the program leads to licensure in the state of Mississippi.
  • The University of Southern Mississippi is working on requesting confirmation from the professional licensing boards as to whether programs in licensed professions lead to licensure in the states in which they have students and in state in which prospective students inquire about matriculating in said programs.


  • Requirements for licensure vary from one profession to another and from state to state.
  • Each state has professional licensing boards in place to regulate the criteria that need to be met to qualify for licensure within a state.
  • Many careers require you to meet specific licensing, training as well as other requirements.
  • Additional education may be required, including but not limited to, state-specific content such as additional coursework or additional supervised field experience hours.
  • Boards may also require background checks.
  • Some boards require an individual to be a resident in order to obtain a license in certain professions.
  • Some states require that an individual obtain a drivers’ license in the state thereby confirming residency in the state prior to considering a licensure application.
  • Licensure requires are governed by the states, not by the Federal government, and the criteria for licensure vary significantly from state to state.
  • Rules in place at the time the individual applies for licensure determine what the licensing requirements apply. The Board determines how the rules and regulations in place are interpreted and applied at the time the licensure application is processed.

For more information on licensing boards, review the Professional Licensure page.


Although the University will make reasonable efforts to place admitted students in field experiences and internships, it will be up to the host facility to determine whether a student will be allowed to work at that facility. Students should further be aware that a criminal record may jeopardize licensure by the state certification body. Students may consult the certification body corresponding to their intended occupation for more details. Successful completion of a program of study at the University of Southern Mississippi does not guarantee licensure, certification or employment in the relevant occupation.


Typically, state licensing boards will have added requirements including generally a criminal background check, added fees, and specifically the following types of requirements based on the type of license:

Engineering- most states require additional years of experience following graduation for candidates who apply for licensure with an Applied Technology, B.S. (which is only accepted in a few states) or an Engineering Technology, B.S. or an Industrial Engineering Technology, B.S. Typically, this would be an additional four years of experience for a total of eight years of professional experience, instead of the four years required for those who graduate with an Engineering degree.

  • Medical Laboratory Science- ASCP certification is required by the states (see list-California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia) that require licensure.
  • Nursing- Mississippi is part of the enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (e-NLC) along with the following states:  Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. For additional information about the e-NLC see the following website: e-NLC Implementation
  • Teaching- additional coursework (i.e. a state history and state culture course), and distinct test scores. Those seeking a license as an administrator may need to have a specific number of years of experience. There may be additional qualifications and/or disqualifications applicable in order to work as a teacher with any local, state or federal entity.


  • Students intending to practice a licensed profession outside of Mississippi who plan to enroll in any University of Southern Mississippi education course(s), degree and/or certificate program leading to advanced licensure need to understand that the state that they are going to be working in will likely have specific requirements in terms of additional courses that are needed to become licensed in their state.
  • For additional information and guidance on out-of-state professional licensure, please visit the Professional Licensure Disclosures page.


  • Students who are pursuing degrees related to professional licensure or certification, and/or who will be participating in clinical placements, internships, or practica through their degree program should be aware that their host facility may require any or all of the following:
    • criminal background check
    • fingerprinting or
    • drug screening
  • In such situations, each student is responsible for obtaining and paying for the background check or other screening process and for delivering required documentation to the facility.
  • Although the University will make reasonable efforts to place admitted students in field experiences and internships, it will be up to the host facility to determine whether a student will be allowed to work at that facility.
  • Students should further be aware that a criminal record may jeopardize licensure by the state certification body.
  • Students may consult the certification body corresponding to their intended occupation for more details.
  • Successful completion of a program of study at the University of Southern Mississippi does not guarantee licensure, certification or employment in the relevant occupation.



The University of Southern Mississippi is able to offer distance education (online and supervised field experiences) in states that are NC-SARA member states through our membership in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). Should you relocate while taking a distance program, please review the list below which indicates the states in which we can offer distance education. If the state that you intend to relocate to is not listed, negative consequences may occur including, but not limited to, the loss of eligibility for certain forms of financial aid (including, but not limited to, Title IV financial aid eligibility, loan repayment or deferment, and/or veteran’s benefits), and/or in the inability to complete the academic program. Additionally, each state professional licensing board has distinct standards. Therefore, relocation may adversely affect your ability to become licensed. Should you have any questions regarding state authorization, please email stateauthorizationFREEMississippi. For additional information and guidance on out-of-state professional licensure, please visit the Professional Licensure Disclosures page. To determine the impact of relocation on financial aid, students should consult with the Financial Services Office and/or the Center for Military Veterans, Services Members and Families located at 3503 Morningside Drive Hattiesburg, MS 39406 to determine the impact of a change in location.



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Hattiesburg, MS 39406

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