Approval Process for New Postsecondary Educational Institutions in Illinois

Creating a new postsecondary educational institution in Illinois is more than a business endeavor; it represents a commitment to molding the future through education. Our accreditation consultants specialize in assisting visionary entrepreneurs and educators with the complex process of obtaining clearance for their new institutions. 

Whether you are estimating the financial commitment involved and wondering "how much does it cost to open a university?" or exploring the best state for your educational institution and asking yourself "which states can I open a university in?", ee provide experienced guidance every step of the way, making your educational goals a reality.

The application process for establishing a new postsecondary educational institution in Illinois is comprehensive and involves several critical steps to ensure compliance with state educational standards. Here's a detailed breakdown of the process:

Step 1. Registration with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)

The foundational step for any new postsecondary institution looking to lay its groundwork in Illinois begins with registration with the IBHE. This initial registration is pivotal as it officially places your institution on the path toward authorization and sets the stage for the detailed review process ahead. To register:

  • Prepare Preliminary Information: Gather all necessary details about your proposed institution. This includes, but is not limited to, the legal name of the institution, the type of institution (for-profit, non-profit, public, private), and contact information for the primary administrative officers.
  • Define the Mission and Objectives: Clearly articulate the educational mission of the institution, outlining the specific objectives and goals you aim to achieve. This mission statement should reflect the institution’s commitment to educational standards, student success, and any specialized focus areas or populations you intend to serve.
  • Submit Required Documentation: Along with your registration, you will need to submit any preliminary documentation that supports your application. This may include proof of financial backing, business plans, and letters of intent from prospective faculty or administrators.

Step 2: Attend Mandatory Orientation

Following registration, your institution's key representatives will be required to attend a mandatory orientation session hosted by the IBHE. The orientation is designed to ensure that applicants have a comprehensive understanding of the process that lies ahead. Key components of the orientation include:

  • Understanding the Regulatory Framework: The IBHE will provide a detailed overview of the regulations and standards that govern postsecondary education in Illinois. This will include state laws, accreditation requirements, and quality standards that must be met.
  • Navigating the Approval Process: Attendees will receive guidance on each step of the approval process, including insights into common pitfalls and how to avoid them. The orientation serves to demystify the process and provide clear expectations for applicants.
  • Insight into Reporting Requirements: A key aspect of maintaining authorization is adherence to reporting standards. The orientation will cover the types of reports required, submission deadlines, and the quality of data expected.
  • Q&A Session: A vital part of the orientation is the opportunity to ask questions. This interactive segment allows for clarification on specific concerns and personalized advice for unique institutional models.
  • Resource Distribution: Attendees will be provided with resources such as checklists, contact lists for key IBHE staff, and templates for required submissions. These resources are invaluable aids throughout the approval and operational stages.

The orientation is not only a requirement but also a valuable opportunity for your institution to align its internal processes with the expectations of the IBHE, ensuring a smoother application process and future operations.

Step 3: Notice of Intent (NOI)

The Notice of Intent (NOI) serves as a formal declaration of your intent to establish a new postsecondary institution in Illinois. This step is crucial for a number of reasons:

  • Initiation of the Approval Process: The submission of the NOI to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) marks the official start of your journey toward gaining operational authority. It's the first formal step in engaging with the regulatory body and sets the stage for all subsequent actions.
  • Fee Submission: Accompanying the NOI, institutions are required to submit a fee. This fee covers the administrative costs associated with the processing of your intent and the initiation of the public comment period. The exact fee amount and payment instructions are typically provided by the IBHE.
  • Public Comment Period Trigger: The submission of the NOI automatically triggers a public comment period as mandated by Illinois law. This period is designed to ensure transparency and public engagement in the establishment of new educational institutions.

Step 4: Public Comment Period

Following the NOI, a 30-day public comment period is required. This period is an essential aspect of the approval process for several reasons:

  • Community and Stakeholder Engagement: It allows members of the community, potential students, faculty, and other stakeholders to provide feedback or raise concerns about the proposed institution. This can be particularly important in gauging the institution's potential impact on the local educational landscape.
  • Transparency in the Approval Process: The public comment period promotes transparency, ensuring that the process of establishing new postsecondary institutions is open to scrutiny and input from the public and interested parties.
  • Opportunity for Response: It also gives the proposing institution an opportunity to address any concerns raised during the comment period, potentially strengthening their application before formal submission.

Step 5: Application Submission

After the conclusion of the public comment period, you are now ready to compile and submit the formal application to the IBHE. This comprehensive document is a pivotal component of the approval process and must be prepared with meticulous attention to detail. It includes:

  1. Institutional Mission and History: Outline the foundational mission that drives the institution and a brief history that may include the background of founders or significant milestones in the institution's development.
  2. Organizational Structure and Governance: Detail the proposed governance model of the institution, including the roles and responsibilities of key figures and the structure of any governing bodies.
  3. Academic Programs and Curricula: Provide a thorough description of the academic programs you intend to offer, including course curricula, program outcomes, and methods of delivery.
  4. Admission and Graduation Requirements: Specify the criteria for student admission, the processes for assessing student progress, and the standards for awarding degrees or certificates.
  5. Faculty Recruitment and Qualifications: Present plans for recruiting qualified faculty, including minimum qualifications, recruitment strategies, and faculty development programs.
  6. Financial Plans and Projections: Demonstrate the institution's financial viability through detailed budgets, projected revenues, and plans for financial sustainability.
  7. Physical Facilities and Technological Infrastructure: Describe the physical campus, if applicable, including buildings, classrooms, and technology infrastructure to support both on-campus and online learning.
  8. Library and Learning Resources: Outline the resources available to students, including library collections, digital resources, and support services to facilitate learning and research.
  9. Plans for Seeking Accreditation: Provide a timeline and strategy for seeking accreditation from recognized bodies, underscoring the institution's commitment to quality and standards.

This application is a foundational document that will be scrutinized by the IBHE to assess the institution's readiness to provide high-quality postsecondary education. It should be prepared with the awareness that it forms the basis of the IBHE's evaluation and eventual decision regarding your institution's authorization to operate in Illinois.

Step 6: Review and Invoice Payment

Invoice Issuance

Once your comprehensive application for establishing a new postsecondary institution is submitted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the next immediate step involves financial processing. The IBHE will issue an invoice corresponding to the application fee, which is a prerequisite for initiating the review process. This fee covers the administrative and operational costs associated with the thorough evaluation of your application.

Payment Clearance

It is essential to promptly address this financial obligation, as the substantive review of your application will not commence until the payment has been fully processed and cleared. This period of financial transaction can vary, and institutions are advised to factor this into their planning timeline to avoid unnecessary delays.

Step 7: Application Review Process

The application review is a meticulous and multi-stage process designed to ensure that proposed institutions meet the high standards expected by the IBHE and, by extension, the educational community in Illinois.

Technical Queries

During the review, the IBHE may raise technical questions to clarify or expand upon the information provided in your application. These inquiries are a critical part of the evaluation, aimed at understanding the depth, feasibility, and compliance of your proposed institution with state educational standards. Timely and comprehensive responses to these queries are crucial.

Site Visits

A pivotal component of the review process may include site visits conducted by IBHE officials. These visits are intended to assess the physical facilities, technological infrastructure, and resources you have outlined in your application. They provide a tangible basis for evaluating your readiness to deliver the proposed educational programs.

Supplementary Information

There may be instances where the IBHE requests additional documentation or information beyond what was initially submitted. This could pertain to financial stability, academic curricula, faculty qualifications, or governance structures. Being prepared to supply this information efficiently can expedite the review process.

Step 8: Attend the Board Meeting

The culmination of the application process is the IBHE board meeting. This critical meeting is where the fate of your application will be decided:

  • Presentation and Representation: The institution's representatives may be asked to present their case before the board, highlighting key aspects of their application and answering any questions the board members might have. This is a pivotal opportunity to advocate for your institution and clarify any concerns.
  • Discussion and Voting: The board will discuss the merits of your application in the context of Illinois’s educational landscape. Following the discussion, a vote will be taken to determine whether to approve your institution for operation.
  • Notification of Decision: After the board meeting, you will be formally notified of the decision. If approved, this notification marks the beginning of your institution's journey in Illinois’s higher education sector, subject to any conditions or recommendations made by the board.

Post-Approval Obligations

Gaining approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) marks a significant milestone for any new postsecondary institution. However, this achievement also initiates a phase of ongoing responsibilities essential for maintaining operational authority and ensuring the institution's continuous contribution to the educational landscape of Illinois. These obligations are crucial for demonstrating compliance with state regulations, upholding quality standards, and fostering institutional growth and sustainability.

1. Submitting Annual Reports and Catalogs

  • Annual Reports: Each year, the institution is required to compile and submit a comprehensive report to the IBHE. This document covers various aspects of institutional operations, including academic achievements, faculty developments, student demographics, and progress towards strategic goals. It serves as a crucial tool for the IBHE to monitor the institution's growth and adherence to its initial commitments.
  • Catalogs: Alongside the annual report, the institution must also submit its updated academic catalog. This catalog should reflect the current academic programs, courses, admission requirements, and any other relevant information. It is a vital resource for prospective and current students, ensuring transparency and access to up-to-date information.

2. Participating in Enrollment Surveys

Enrollment surveys, conducted by the IBHE, gather essential data on student demographics, program enrollment numbers, and trends in education demand. Participation in these surveys is mandatory, contributing to the state’s higher education database and assisting in policy-making and resource allocation.

3. Complying with IPEDS Data Collection

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is a national system for collecting and analyzing education statistics. Compliance with IPEDS involves submitting data on enrollment, program completion, graduation rates, faculty, finances, and student financial aid. This data is crucial for maintaining transparency and allows for national comparisons and benchmarking.

4. Maintaining Financial Solvency

Financial health is paramount for the continued operation of the institution. This involves not only maintaining a stable financial status but also demonstrating the ability to meet all financial obligations, including faculty salaries, facility maintenance, and student aid. Financial solvency ensures the institution’s longevity and its capacity to invest in quality improvements.

5. Seeking and Obtaining Accreditation within Five Years

Accreditation is a key factor in establishing an institution's credibility and quality. Within five years of IBHE approval, the institution is expected to seek and obtain accreditation from a recognized accrediting body. This process involves rigorous evaluation of the institution’s educational programs, faculty qualifications, student services, and governance. Achieving accreditation validates the quality of education provided and is essential for student eligibility for federal financial aid.

Ensuring Continuous Compliance and Quality

These post-approval obligations are not just regulatory requirements but are integral to the institution's mission of providing high-quality education. They reflect a commitment to continuous improvement, accountability, and transparency. Fulfilling these obligations requires a proactive approach, including regular internal reviews, engagement with accrediting bodies, and a commitment to adhering to the highest standards of educational excellence. By meeting these ongoing requirements, institutions can ensure they remain valuable and respected contributors to Illinois’ higher education ecosystem. This is also where using a seasoned “accreditation consultant” can become very handy.

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

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