Getting State Approval in Colorado

Colorado has a growing population and a strong education system, making it an ideal place to open a new university or college. In fact, according to the U.S. Career Institute, Colorado ranks 9th in the nation for the highest graduation rate at 92%. 

If you’re interested in starting a postsecondary institution in Colorado, there are some specific steps to take to get the necessary approvals from the state.

In this guide, we’ll go over the different steps you need to take to get your university up and running in Colorado.

Understanding the Process and Requirements For State Approval

Before accepting students, offering instruction, or awarding credits or degrees, all institutions seeking authorization under the Degree Authorization Act must receive approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Failure to comply with this policy will result in a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by law.

Application Fees and Processing Time


  • Application fee: $10,000
  • Surety bond: $5,000

Processing Time:

  • 3-6 months 

Here are the steps you will need to take in order to get approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education:

1. Complete and submit the Regulation Determination Questionnaire

2. Schedule an In-Person Consultation with DHE Staff

3. Submit the Necessary Documentation

4, Wait for The DHE Staff's Formal Review

5. Reply to the Report and Make the Required Changes

6. Wait for Approval

7. Get authorized and start operations

Step 1: Complete And Submit The Regulation Determination Questionnaire

This will help determine which regulatory body the institution falls under.

These regulatory bodies include:

• The Division of Private Occupational Schools (DPOS)

• Colorado Commission on Higher Education

You can access the questionnaire through this PDF link via the NC-SARA website.

Once you've completed the questionnaire, send it along with a link to the academic catalog to the following address:

Colorado Department of Higher Education

Attn: Office of Private Postsecondary Education

1600 Broadway, Suite 2200

Step 2: Schedule an In-Person Consultation with DHE Staff

You should meet with the staff of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (DHE) to discuss topics like academic policies and procedures, faculty qualifications, eligibility, and application requirements.

Step 3: Submit the Necessary Documentation

The documentation will be reviewed by DHE staff to determine the category of authorization for which the institution will apply.

Here are some considerations you must make when submitting the documents:

  • If the institution's Colorado campus is accredited based on an on-site visit by the accrediting agency, the institution will seek authorization as a Fully Authorized institution.
  • If the institution is accredited by a recognized agency, but not based on an on-site visit at the Colorado campus, the institution will seek Provisional status.
  • If the institution has begun the accreditation process through a campus located in another state and can demonstrate the potential for accreditation, it will seek Provisional authorization.
  • If the institution is not accredited, it must demonstrate familiarity with accreditation and state authorization policies and seek Provisional authorization.

Step 4: Wait for The DHE Staff's Formal Review

The DHE staff will review the submitted documents and supporting information to determine whether your institution should be approved for state authorization.

If your institution is approved, the DHE staff will form an external evaluation team to determine if:

  • The accredited institution seeking authorization in Colorado has the infrastructure in place to open a branch campus.
  • The unaccredited institution meets statutory and CCHE-approved policy requirements and has the potential to become accredited at its location in Colorado in a reasonable time as set by the accrediting agencies.

Step 5: Reply to the Report and Make the Required Changes

The evaluation team will submit a report of its recommendations to DHE staff, who will then forward the report to the institution. The institution will have one chance to reply to any concerns noted in the report and make corrections if necessary.

Step 6: Wait for Approval

Once all of the documents have been reviewed, and any changes required are made, CCHE staff will recommend to the Commission that your institution be approved for a Certificate of Authorization.

Evaluation Report and Recommendation

  • If the evaluation team's report is favorable, DHE staff will recommend appropriate authorization of the institution to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education at the next possible meeting.
  • If the report is conditional, DHE staff will review the report to determine if minor technical changes or substantial changes are necessary.

Minor vs Substantial Changes

  • The institution will have six months to resubmit the materials with no fee if minor technical changes are required.
  • If substantial changes are required, the institution will be required to submit a new application and fee.

Step 7: Get Authorized And Start Operations

Once approved, the institution will be awarded a Certificate of Authorization that allows it to operate in Colorado. You may begin accepting students, offering instruction, and awarding credits or degrees.

Closing Words

It is important to understand the process of obtaining state authorization from Colorado's Department of Higher Education in order to ensure adherence to all applicable regulations and policies. 

Make sure that all documentation required by the Department is accurate and complete for the authorization to be granted. Following the steps outlined in this guide should streamline the process. 

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