State Authorization: What It Means For Your Institution

April 8, 2023
State Authorization: What It Means For Your Institution
We provide the licensing and accreditation needed to establish a new university and offer comprehensive guidance throughout the process.

This involves helping our clients understand all the legal and financial requirements around university establishment, as well as providing marketing and branding advice to ensure their university or college stands out from other educational institutions.

Our competitors can only offer a limited service, either licensing or accreditation, as most don't have the skills or team required to provide a turnkey service. This is why EEC stands out from the crowd – we can offer our clients everything they need to get their university off the ground easily and efficiently.
We aim to provide a complete service that will give our clients every chance of success when setting up their university. With EEC, you get a complete package of expertise and support for your university startup project.

 At EEC we're looking at building a long-term relationship with our clients, where launching a university is only the first step.

 We are confident that no other company can match our team of experts and their specialized knowledge.

I am pleased to welcome you to the first article in our series about state authorization for higher education institutions.

In this post, I’ll explain the basics of state authorization and the considerations you need to know to ensure your application goes smoothly.

Before we go deeper, understand that becoming an accredited university in the U.S. requires three steps:

  1. Opening a corporation
  2. Obtaining state authorization
  3. Getting accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-approved accreditor

We will focus on step 2 throughout this series, with the aim to provide guidance on how to obtain state authorization in various states.

To start this series, we discuss the considerations you need to make before applying for state authorization.  But before we go there, let's discuss what state authorization means.

What Is State Authorization?

State authorization is the process of obtaining permission from a state or other governing body to provide postsecondary educational programs and/or services in that particular state. 

If you wish to offer online courses and degrees, recruit students, award financial aid, and use state-based resources, you will be required to obtain this authorization.

This can be a complex and time-consuming process, depending on the laws and regulations of the state where you want to operate.

If you want to save time, money, and effort, researching and understanding the specific regulations of each state is a crucial step. 

Based on my experience working with clients, you need to understand two things to easily navigate the process of obtaining state authorization: 

  • The two types of state authorization and which one applies to your institution
  • The differences between a vocational/career college and a degree-granting institution and your options for gaining approval

Step 1: Understand The Two Types Of State Authorization

Depending on your specific situation, you may need to obtain only one of these two types of authorization:

  • Approval to operate
  • Exemption from state supervision

Institutions That Require Approval

Generally, institutions that need approval instead of exemption are those that are for-profit entities, have a physical presence in the state, or offer distance education or correspondence courses to state residents without participating in a state authorization reciprocity agreement. 

However, each state may have different criteria and exceptions for granting approval or exemption, so make sure to check with the relevant state agencies before operating an educational institution in their jurisdiction.

Institutions That Qualify For Exemption

Institutions that may qualify for exemption include nonprofit entities established by the state for public interest or the common good, have no physical presence in the state, or offer distance education or correspondence courses to state residents through a state authorization reciprocity agreement. 

State-Specific Criteria and Exceptions for Approval or Exemption

Each state may have different criteria and exceptions for granting approval or exemption, so be sure to check with the relevant state agencies before operating an educational institution in their jurisdiction.

Step 2: Vocational Or Degree-Granting? Understanding Your College Options

Different types of institutions may have different requirements and regulations to comply with. As such, it's important to know the distinction between a vocational college and a career college, as well as how they are different from a degree-granting institution.

Vocational Schools vs Career College

Vocational schools tend to offer more traditional trade and technical training, while career colleges focus on preparing students for specific careers or professions. The choice between the two types of institutions will depend on an individual's career goals, preferred learning style, and financial situation.

Vocational schools and career colleges are both types of post-secondary educational institutions, but they differ in several ways:

  1. Ownership and Funding: Vocational schools are government-owned or at least government-supported institutions, while career colleges are generally for-profit institutions that are not government-supported (like private schools)
  2. Duration of Study: Vocational schools require at least two years of study, while career colleges occupy periods of study that are generally less than a year.
  3. Type of Training: Vocational schools offer practical training that focuses on a single field, while career colleges provide training in a particular career or profession that is generally more specialized.
  4. Accreditation: Vocational schools' credits are usually accepted elsewhere in the academic world, while career colleges' certifications and training are rarely recognized by the larger academic world.
  5. Cost: Vocational schools are generally less expensive than career colleges, which can be more expensive due to their for-profit status.

Degree-granting Institutions

To obtain state authorization as a degree-granting institution of higher education, you need to follow certain criteria that may vary depending on the state where you want to operate. These criteria include:

  • Obtaining accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Establishing a physical presence or offering online courses in the state
  • Adhering to state laws and regulations on academic quality, consumer protection, and financial stability
  • Submitting an application to the state agency responsible for higher education and paying the required fee

To obtain state authorization to confer degrees on students in any state, prepare the following documents for a higher chance of approval:

  • Program curriculum: This is a document showing what you plan on teaching students. It includes the learning objectives, topics, activities, assessments, and resources that are aligned with the program’s goals and standards.
  • Proof of campus acquisition:  This is a document that shows that you have a place where you will be teaching your courses. It can be a rental agreement, a lease contract, or a purchase deed.
  • Financial statements: These are documents that show the financial performance and position of your business. They include an income statement, a cash flow statement, and a balance sheet.
  • Business plan: This document describes your business idea, goals, strategies, market analysis, competitive advantage, and financial projections. 

You need to submit the above documents to the Department of Education or Consumer Affairs Department in the state your institution will be based in. 

Closing Words

Applying for state authorization without a plan could be a very strenuous and time-consuming task. With different states having their own rules and regulations, it's important to understand the process and get clear with your goals before you start. With a good plan and the right documents,  you'll have a better chance of getting all the necessary approvals to open an accredited university in no time.

If you plan to open a university or college in the US, please do not hesitate to book a free consultation with me via call or email so I can better understand your needs. 

Should you find yourself with questions or in need of personalized assistance, I encourage you to reach out. For personalized guidance, feel free to reach out to Expert Education Consultants via email at with any questions you may have. This service is complimentary.

To explore customized solutions tailored to your specific needs, schedule a personalized one-on-one paid consultation with Dr. Sandra Norderhaug here.

Share this  post
twitter logofacebook logolinkedin logo