Your Short Guide To Opening A University in California: Part I

July 17, 2022
Your Short Guide To Opening A University in California: Part I
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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.
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I always say this: California is a great choice for opening your university. In fact, I dive deep into why California is the Golden State for starting an academic institution in this blog post - make sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

If you clicked on this post, odds are you’re thinking about opening a private university, college, or vocational school in California. Your first step on this roadway is to learn more about the license requirements. In California, to get a license to operate an academic institution, one must first obtain approval from BPPE or Bureau for Private Post Secondary Education.

I’m going to dedicate this post as well as the next one to discussing some of the key sections of the BPPE’s Application for Approval to Operate a Non-Accredited Institution. Although all sections in this type of application are important, some of them tend to be a bit more confusing if you’re working with this form for the first time.

I’ll first cover the sections that I frequently get asked about by my clients. I will also briefly cover some of the important changing BPPE regulations in regards to this type of application that you should be aware of.  

Finally, I’ll share with you some of the useful tips you can use in working with those sections based on my experience and will provide you with some of the ways you can use to successfully get your approval without breaking the bank.  

With all of this, I aim to ensure that the application process becomes a faster and more seamless experience for you.

As always, feel free to reach out to me via a phone call or email if you have any questions at all or want to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

First Things First: The 3 Major Types of Applications for Approval To Operate in California

I want to start by listing the three different kinds of applications offered for approval in California. You will be able to click on each of these to be taken to the corresponding online application form:

  1. Application for Approval to Operate an Accredited Institution
  2. Application for Approval to Operate a Non-Accredited Institution
  3. Verification of Exempt Status

As mentioned earlier, I will focus on walking you through the ins and outs of the Application for Approval to Operate a Non-Accredited Institution in this short blog series. This application type is complex and demanding to work with since non-accredited universities and colleges are new in the game, and don’t have much experience or credibility yet.

The Application for Approval to Operate an Accredited Institution is much more straightforward and uncomplicated which is why I won’t cover it in this post. As for the 3rd application type, I have already covered Verification of Exempt Status in one of my previous posts. Check it out here if you’ve missed it.

Application for Approval to Operate a Non-Accredited Institution: Key Sections


This is a section where BPPE reviewers expect to see that you have an established plan for the major positions that will manage and run your post-secondary institution.

The reviewers don’t expect you to fill all positions before you receive your license, however, you should be able to demonstrate a prepared organizational chart, job descriptions and prospects’ resumes for the three main positions:

  • Chief Executive Officer or CEO
  • Chief Operating Officer or COO
  • Chief Academic Officer or CAO

Each of these is expected to have a considerable amount of experience in leadership roles, ideally within a higher-education sector.

It should be mentioned that your CAO must be selected very carefully, as the BPPE will want to see both the resume and CAO’s transcripts. Out of these 3 positions, The CAO is the only position that must have a Doctorate degree and experience in an academic leadership position


The BPPE pays extra attention to this legally binding document. That’s because they want to make sure that the student as an applicant has all the proper disclaimers in the agreement that she/he signs.

In addition to that, the BPPE wants to make sure you hand a copy of the school catalog and the School Performance Fact Sheet to your students before making them sign this agreement. It makes perfect sense, as the School Performance Fact Sheet (SPFS) provides your students with important information such as past alumni, their current professions and salaries, and other data.

Here’s the template for the SPFS that BPPE requires applicants to submit along with the application.

Follow this checklist to ensure you include everything required with your enrollment agreement. After your application to BPPE is submitted, an assigned licensing agent will use this checklist to cross-reference each item with the page numbers.

I strongly advise my clients to add page numbers to identify the location of each item in the checklist so that’s easier for your agent to review the application.


In this section of the application, the Bureau will expect you to include lengthy and detailed descriptions of every educational program that you’re planning to offer as part of the curriculum. As a reminder, you’re only allowed to offer 2 degree programs and an unlimited number of non-degree programs during the first two years of your operation.

For degree programs, you will be asked to include all of the following:

  • The program’s full title as it appears on the graduation certificate. This includes the title of a major field of learning involved.
  • The admission requirements such as prerequisite education, preparation and training.
  • The amount (and type) of general education required.
  • Graduation requirements.
  • Whether the given educational program is designed to prepare students for employment, and if yes, a detailed description of relevant occupation and job title that the program can lead to. You can use this guide for occupational codes.

In regards to this section, here are some tips to ensure you avoid some of the most common mistakes during the application process:

  • Discuss how you plan to assess your students’ readiness for online learning in the admission requirements if you’re planning to offer e-learning or hybrid learning.
  • If you’re offering a degree program, make sure to submit an accreditation plan along with the application. This isn’t mentioned on the application but is something that will be expected of you. See this template by BPPE as an example.
  • Make sure to submit one document that includes all of the above-mentioned per each program. Combining them all might delay your application process and will just add confusion.

This is it for now! Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series where I will continue discussing other important sections of the Application for Approval to Operate a Non-Accredited Institution.

Opening your university in the USA? We can help. Get in touch with us now.

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.

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