Approval Process for New Postsecondary Educational Institutions in Florida

Are you an entrepreneur with a vision to establish a new privately owned university, college, or vocational school in Florida? Navigating the complex process of gaining approval from the Commission for Independent Education (CIE) can be daunting, but with the right guidance and preparation, you can turn your educational dreams into reality. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the detailed application process, requirements, and conditions for obtaining approval from the CIE to operate your institution in the Sunshine State.

Understanding the CIE's Role

The CIE is responsible for overseeing and regulating private postsecondary educational institutions in Florida. Their mission is to ensure that all institutions meet the highest standards of quality, integrity, and compliance. To operate legally in Florida, your new institution must obtain a license from the CIE.

The CIE Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Pre-Application Conference: Before diving into the application process, schedule a meeting with CIE staff at least six months before your target opening date. This conference will provide valuable guidance and help you navigate the application process smoothly.

2. Provisional License Application: Complete the Provisional License Application form for each proposed location. This form will require you to provide detailed information about your institution, including:

  •    Institution Data: Name, corporate name, physical address, and mailing address
  •    Contact Information: Telephone, fax, website, and email
  •    Administrator and Contact Person Details
  •    Accreditation Data (if applicable): Agencies, levels, and periods
  •    Regulatory Agency Approval for Programs (if applicable): Agency, application dates, and approval dates
  •    Affirmation and Signature

3. Gathering Supporting Documentation: Prepare and submit a comprehensive package of required documents, which includes:

  • Secretary of State Documentation: Proof of active corporate status and fictitious name registration
  • Instructional and Administrative Personnel Forms (Form 402): Detailed information on each owner, administrator, and instructor, including personal contact info, employment details, educational background, work experience, certifications/licenses, and notarized affirmation of accuracy and authorization for criminal background check
  • Transmittal of Criminal Justice Information Fee Form: $50 fee and personal information (name, title, DOB, ethnicity, gender) for each owner/administrator
  • Organizational Chart
  • Program Outlines: For each proposed program, provide details on title, credential, clock/credit hours, length, delivery method, tuition/costs, enrollment requirements, objectives, description, equipment inventory, textbooks/learning resources, and a breakdown of courses with numbers, titles, hours, identification of general education or distance education, and services if applicable
  • Application for Admission/Enrollment Agreement
  • Completed Enrollment Agreement Checklist: Verifies inclusion of required elements like title, institution info, program details, costs, payment terms, schedule, policies, disclosures, and signatures
  • Completed Refund Policy Checklist: Ensures compliance with minimum refund standards per Rule 6E-1.0032(6)(i), F.A.C., including an equitable policy, disclosure in catalog/enrollment agreement, minimum proration, addressing cancelled obligations/nonrefundable fees, timely payment, and determining withdrawal date
  • Financial Documents:
    • Completed Business Plan (Form CIE 605): Executive summary, facilities, program descriptions, marketing/advertising plans, detailed financial info on resources, revenue sources, budget, pro forma financials, break-even point, capital expenditures, teach-out plan, and business continuity plan
    • Pro Forma Balance Sheet
    • Financial Statement of Parent Corporation (compiled/reviewed/audited by CPA) or Financial Statements of Controlling Principals
    • Current Financial Statements per Rule 6E-2.004(6), F.A.C., showing positive working capital, profit/surplus, or improvement plan/surety
    • Separate Profit/Loss for each Florida location (for non-Florida corporations)
    • Completed Projected or Actual Budget (Form 606): Tuition Revenue Summary tab with total revenue from all programs, Program Revenue tabs 1-20 with individual program projections for tuition, population, attrition, growth, and a Main Budget tab with month-by-month projections for revenue (tuition, fees, adjustments) and expenses (salaries, advertising, equipment, supplies), automatically calculating gross profit, EBIT, EBITDA, and ending cash position
    • Completed Finances Checklist
  • Completed Faculty Listing Form (Form 401): Details all faculty credentials, courses taught, and licensure
  • Faculty Handbook (for programs over 600 clock hours)
  • Unbound copy or electronic version of Institution Catalog
  • Completed Catalog Checklist: Includes all required content per Rule 6E-2.004(11), disclosures per Rule 6E-1.0032(6), accreditation info, policies on admissions, finances, refunds, placement, complaints, anti-hazing, detailed program/course info, academic policies, and student services
  • Copies of other publications and draft advertisements
  • Lease agreement or ownership documentation for facilities
  • Proof of zoning compliance (occupational license, etc.)
  • Accreditation documentation (if applicable)
  • Copies of Fee Transmittal form (Form 201) and payment
  • Copies of Student Protection Fund Fee Transmittal form (Form 202) and $500 payment (diploma-level only)
  • Admissions Training Program for recruiting and admissions staff: Addresses required content per Rule 6E-1.0032(13), including laws/regulations, institution policies, prohibited practices, and can use an approved third-party training provider

4. Staff Review: CIE staff will review your application within 30 days of receipt and provide written notification of any omissions or deficiencies.

5. Applicant Response: Address any identified deficiencies and resubmit your application package in a timely and complete manner.

6. Commission Consideration: Once your application is deemed complete, it will be presented to the CIE for consideration of your Provisional License. It is strongly recommended that a representative from your institution attend the Commission meeting to address any questions or concerns.

7. Provisional Licensure: If approved, your institution will be granted a Provisional License. You may begin advertising, recruiting students, and preparing for launch, but cannot start classes until you receive the printed Provisional License.

Fees Associated with the CIE Application

When submitting your application, be prepared to pay the following fees (originals to the Department of Education, copies with the application):

1. Base Fee: Determined by anticipated Florida enrollment in the first year

   - Level 1 (0-100 students) = $500

   - Level 2 (101-500 students) = $1,000

   - Level 3 (501-1,000 students) = $2,000

   - Level 4 (1,001-5,000 students) = $3,000

   - Level 5 (5,001-10,000 students) = $4,000

   - Level 6 (over 10,000 students) = $5,000

2. Workload Fee:

   - Highest offering is a Diploma = $2,000

   - Highest offering is an Occupational Associate Degree or higher = $3,000

3. Program Fee: $200 per proposed program

4. "College" or "University" Name Fee: Additional $500 if using those terms

5. Total of All Fees: Paid by check, cashier's check, or money order

Time To Complete the License Application

All in all, the application process is lengthy and time-consuming. If your submission is returned as incomplete, insufficient, or denied, you could face delays and may need to adjust your timeline. In our experience, the average time to prepare a License application is about three months.

Once submitted, the application process typically takes nine to twelve months in Florida. Following your licensure staff review, you’ll have the opportunity to address omissions or deficiencies before your application is presented to the full commission for final review. The commission will then deny or approve your application. To avoid delays and assure success, you need to put together the strongest application possible.

Conditions for Using "College" or "University" in Your Institution's Name

If you wish to include the term "college" or "university" in your institution's name, you must meet additional criteria outlined in Rule 6E-1.003(1)(b)-(c), F.A.C.:

Using “College” in the name of your institution

  1.  Offer, or propose to offer, as the majority of total offerings and student enrollments, either an academic associate degree, baccalaureate degree, or graduate/professional degree (or, for out-of-state institutions, offer these in the home state)
  2.   Lease, contract for, or own facilities in Florida that meet or exceed the minimum standards specified in subsection 6E-2.004(9), F.A.C.
  3.  Show evidence of continued operations as an educational institution at the college level

Using “University” in the name of your institution

  1. Offer, or propose to offer, as the majority of total offerings and student enrollments, a range of undergraduate degree programs and multiple graduate degree programs, or at least three graduate degree programs if only offering graduate degrees (or, for out-of-state institutions, offer these in the home state)
  2. Lease, contract for, or own facilities in Florida that meet or exceed the minimum standards specified in subsection 6E-2.004(9), F.A.C.
  3. Show evidence of continued operations as an educational institution at the university level

Minimum Standards for Physical Facilities

As outlined in subsection 6E-2.004(9), F.A.C., all institutions licensed by the CIE must meet minimum standards for their physical facilities, regardless of the level of credentials offered:

  1. Provide a learning environment and physical facilities suitable for the programs offered and the number of students and faculty
  2. Ensure adequate classrooms, labs, offices, and service areas, as documented by site plans, floor plans, and descriptions
  3. Maintain facilities that are safe, clean, well-maintained, and compliant with all applicable health, safety, zoning, and building regulations
  4. Provide all necessary instructional supplies and equipment to support the programs and students

Submitting Your Application

  1. Send your completed application, along with documentation and copies of fees, to:

        Commission for Independent Education
         325 West Gaines Street, Suite 1414
         Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400

  1. Send the original Fee Transmittal form and payments to:

        Department of Education, Attn: Office of the Comptroller
         944 Turlington Building
         325 W. Gaines Street
        Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400

  1. Retain copies of the full application package for your records

Ongoing Compliance and Reporting

Once you've obtained your Provisional License, you'll need to maintain compliance with all standards, submit annual reports, and pay the necessary fees as you progress to an Annual License and beyond. The CIE will continue to monitor and support your institution to ensure ongoing success and integrity.

By understanding and adhering to the CIE's application requirements and standards, you'll establish a strong foundation for your university, college, or vocational school to thrive in Florida's educational landscape. Remember, the process of starting a new institution is complex and requires careful planning and execution. 

For personalized guidance on navigating the authorization process for your new university in Florida, reach out to Expert Education Consultants (EEC) at +19252089037 or email sandra@experteduconsult.com

Transform your university vision into a thriving reality. Book a free consultation now.