I’ve previously talked about starting a religious exempt school on my website. Read this post to learn more.
In this piece, however, I wanted to focus on starting a religious exempt school specifically in the state of Florida.
- Florida’s process of establishing a religious exempt school is usually more straightforward, and cost-efficient compared to other states.
- Did you know that the Commission for Independent Education in Florida doesn’t require applicants to submit comprehensive information about all programs that your school will be offering?
Instead, the CIE will simply ask you to sign an affidavit that all program titles contain a
religious modifier. This ruling significantly cuts the time that is spent on detailing all the programs that you intend to offer.
- Most of the twenty-one States that exempt unaccredited religious degree-granting schools from their supervision (example: California), mandate that the university, college, or seminary must be owned, managed, and controlled by a non-profit religious organization.
Florida is different. When you’re setting up your institution here, you’re not required to report back to the board of the religious organization that owns and controls the institution to get approval for every minor amendment that you will be making to your educational programs, mission statement, learning outcomes, and other processes.
In the long term, this exemption considerably saves you the time it takes to get from A to Z in your school accreditation journey.
- Your religious educational institution in Florida can be either non-profit or for-profit. This rule doesn’t apply to other states where you can only establish a non-profit religious exempt school.
I further discuss the non-profit vs for-profit university and college structures in this post.
- Once established, your religious exempt school’s name will be officially listed on the state’s CIE website, which will give your prospective students extra confidence in your institution’s authority and the integrity of offered programs.
Below you’ll find a list of things you need to know when starting your religious exempt school in Florida.
Florida Statutes and Rule 6E-5.001 in Section 1005.06(1)(f) state that the Religious Schools are not under the jurisdiction of the CIE, and hence are not required to obtain licensure.
It further states that a religious institution may operate without governmental oversight if it provides an affidavit to the commission board on an annual basis. The affidavit must cover the following:
- The name of your religious exempt school includes a distinctive religious modifier or the name of a religious saint, recognized individual, or a symbol of a religious organization.
As an example, you can’t name your religious school something like Florida Management Institute. You’ll have to instead use an appropriate modifier that would make it Florida Biblical Management Institute.
- Your institution can only offer programs that prepare your students for religious vocations as laypersons, ministers, and professionals in the categories of theology, counseling, ministry, administration, education, fine arts, music, social work, or media communications.
- The titles of degrees issued by your school should be clearly defined as religious, and not be confused with secular degree titles. This is why each degree should have a distinctive religious modifier (Example: Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies).
It’s important to note that the religious modifier must not only be included in the title line of the degree, but also on the transcript, and every time the title of the degree shows in official documents and publications.
- The duration of all degree programs offered by your school should be consistent with the standards of the commission board.
- Your institution’s consumer practices should be consistent with those required under Section 1005.04.
The commission will further provide your religious exempt school with a letter stating that it has met the requirements of state law, and will not be subject to governmental oversight.
So what’s the process?
- First, incorporate as either a non-profit, or for-profit corporation in the state of Florida. If you’re not sure which type of business entity works best for you, read this quick post to help yourself decide.
- Decide on an appropriate name for your school that includes a distinctive religious modifier to meet the requirements of the CIE.
- Develop educational programs that will be offered and that will fully meet the requirements of the CIE.
- Submit your application to the board.
- Upon receiving your letter of exemption, you will be required to renew your exemption on an annual basis.
It’s crucial to decide which state you want your institution to be based in. This depends on many factors such as budget, market, and preferences.
Florida has many advantages for religious exempt schools as I discussed in this article, however, I also encourage you to research the other 21 states and see what works best for you.
I had a client who came to me because she hasn’t heard back from the commission’s board in over six months after submitting her school documentation. She didn’t know where she went wrong, so we sat down and pinpointed a missed component that was overlooked in the submission process.
We eventually re-submitted all papers for her, however, those six months did delay her school approval.
I bring this up because the application process may seem simple, however, it is nonetheless an overwhelming journey and it’s easy to make errors, especially if you haven’t done this before.
This is why it’s essential to thoroughly follow the process to ensure you hit your timeline.
If you’re in need of assistance with your application process or you're just planning to open a university in the USA, reach out to me for a free consultation.