How to Obtain a License to Operate a Non-Accredited University in Minnesota

The process of obtaining a License to Operate a Non-Accredited University in Minnesota, governed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, ensures that all post-secondary educational institutions meet the state's rigorous standards for quality and integrity. Whether you're at the initial phase, crunching numbers and pondering over "What's the financial blueprint to open a university?" or if you've progressed beyond budgeting, scouting for the perfect state while asking "What's the best state to establish a university?"—this guide will take you from point zero all the way to success.

Below, we outline the essential steps and requirements to guide you through this pivotal journey.

Understanding Minnesota's Educational Standards

Embarking on the journey to establish a non-accredited university in Minnesota requires a deep understanding of the state's educational standards. These standards, enshrined in sections 136A.61 to 136A.71 of the Minnesota statutes, along with the Minnesota Academic Program Standards, form the bedrock upon which the quality and integrity of post-secondary education are built. Here's a closer look at why these standards are pivotal and how they impact your institution:

The Role of Minnesota Academic Program Standards

The Minnesota Academic Program Standards are not just guidelines but essential criteria that outline what educational programs should offer to ensure they deliver real value to students. These standards cover various aspects of academic life, from the structure and content of educational programs to the qualifications of faculty members. Here are some key areas they address:

  • Program Design: Ensuring that each program has a coherent structure, meets the educational objectives, and aligns with the institution's mission.
  • General Education: Establishing a foundation in general education for all undergraduate degrees, emphasizing critical areas such as communication, natural sciences, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities/arts.
  • Advanced Study: Defining requirements for advanced coursework, particularly for bachelor's and graduate degrees, to ensure depth and rigor in the students' chosen fields of study.
  • Quality of Faculty: Highlighting the importance of having qualified teaching personnel who are capable of delivering the educational programs effectively and contributing to the academic success of the students.

Navigating Through Sections 136A.61 to 136A.71 of the Minnesota Statutes

The statutes provide a legal framework for the operation of post-secondary institutions in Minnesota, detailing everything from the process of application for a new institution to the standards for program approval and the maintenance of educational records. Key highlights include:

  • Licensing Requirements: Outlining the necessary steps and documentation required to obtain a license to operate, such as financial disclosures, academic program proposals, and evidence of compliance with educational standards.
  • Operational Standards: Setting forth the expectations for the ongoing operation of institutions, including financial stability, program quality, and student support services.
  • Accountability Measures: Describing the mechanisms for oversight, such as reporting requirements, site visits, and the potential for sanctions in cases of non-compliance.

Why These Standards Matter

Adhering to these standards ensures that your institution not only gains the legal right to operate but also establishes itself as a reputable entity committed to providing high-quality education. They serve as a guarantee to students, parents, and the broader community that your university meets recognized benchmarks for educational excellence.

Furthermore, understanding and integrating these standards into your operational planning from the outset can facilitate smoother application processes, enhance the credibility of your institution, and ultimately contribute to the success and sustainability of your academic programs.

Step 1: Preparing Your Application

Embarking on the journey to establish a non-accredited university in Minnesota starts with meticulous preparation. This foundational step ensures that your institution is built on a solid framework, aligned with state requirements and standards. Here's how to navigate this crucial phase:

  1. Gather Necessary Documentation

This initial phase lays the groundwork for your application, requiring a compilation of essential documents that reflect the operational, academic, and financial blueprint of your institution.

  • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws: These documents formalize the existence of your institution, outlining its governance structure, operational framework, and foundational principles. Ensure they comply with state legal requirements and clearly articulate the governance model and organizational structure.
  • Mission Statement: Your mission statement is a declaration of your institution's core purpose and values. It should succinctly express what the university aims to achieve, the community it serves, and how it contributes to the broader educational landscape.
  • Evidence of Financial Stability: Providing proof of financial stability is paramount. This includes fiscal balance sheets and certified audits of the immediate past fiscal year. These documents should demonstrate the institution's ability to meet its financial obligations, including refunds, service provisions, and educational program delivery.
  • Promotional Materials and School Catalog: Compile all current promotional materials and a comprehensive school catalog. The catalog should detail course offerings, faculty qualifications, admission requirements, and policies on student evaluation, suspension, and dismissal. This not only serves regulatory purposes but also offers prospective students transparent insight into your institution.

  1. Develop Educational Program Proposals

Creating proposals for each educational program you intend to offer is a critical step. These proposals must align with the Minnesota Academic Program Standards, ensuring your programs provide meaningful, high-quality education.

  • Program Structure and Content: Outline the structure and content of each program, including course descriptions, objectives, and learning outcomes. Show how each program aligns with the institution's mission and meets the demands of the current and future workforce.
  • Compliance with Academic Standards: Ensure that your program proposals meet the specific requirements for certificate, diploma, undergraduate, and graduate programs as outlined by the state. This includes general education requirements, program length, and the depth of study.
  • Ladder Credentials and Transferability: Consider the ladder credentials and transferability of credits. Design your programs to facilitate seamless progression from one level of education to the next and ensure that credits can be easily transferred to other institutions, enhancing student mobility.

  1. Designate Administrative and Faculty Members

The quality of your administrative and faculty team is critical to the success of your institution. This step involves identifying and documenting the qualifications of key personnel.

  • List of Administrative Officers and Faculty Members: Create a comprehensive list of all administrative officers and faculty members, including their roles within the institution. This list should include both full-time and part-time faculty, highlighting their educational backgrounds and experience.
  • Highlight Qualifications and Experience: For each listed member, detail their qualifications, such as degrees held and professional experience. Emphasize how their expertise supports the programs offered, underscoring their capability to deliver high-quality education and contribute to the academic success of students.
  • Professional Development: Outline plans for ongoing professional development for faculty and staff. This demonstrates a commitment to maintaining high teaching standards and adapting to evolving educational needs.

Preparing your application is a detailed and deliberate process that requires careful attention to legal, academic, and operational considerations. By thoroughly gathering necessary documentation, developing robust educational program proposals, and assembling a qualified team of administrators and faculty, you lay a strong foundation for your application to operate a non-accredited university in Minnesota. This preparation not only meets the immediate requirements for licensing but also sets the stage for the long-term success and sustainability of your institution.

Step 2: Submitting Your Application

The submission of your application marks a significant milestone in your journey to establish a non-accredited university in Minnesota. This step requires precision and attention to detail to ensure that your application reflects the quality and integrity of your proposed institution.

  1. Complete the Application Form

Accuracy and Completeness: Thoroughly review the application form provided by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Ensure that every section is filled out accurately, providing complete information about your institution, its governance, programs, faculty, and financial resources. 

Pay close attention to instructions and answer each question thoughtfully, as this document forms the basis of your institution's evaluation.

  1. Attach Required Documentation

Comprehensive Package: Alongside your application form, attach all previously prepared documents, including articles of incorporation, bylaws, mission statement, fiscal documents, promotional materials, and a detailed school catalog. Ensure that your educational program proposals are clear, concise, and fully aligned with Minnesota's Academic Program Standards.

Adherence to Guidelines: Double-check the office's guidelines for any specific formatting or submission requirements. Organize your documents logically, making it easy for reviewers to navigate through your application package.

  1. Pay the Application Fee

Fee Submission: Submit the required non-refundable application fee. Be aware that this fee varies depending on the number and level of programs your institution plans to offer. The fee structure is designed to cover the administrative costs of reviewing your application and is an essential component of the submission process.

Step 3: Undergoing Review and Inspection

Following the submission of your application, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education will conduct a thorough review and possibly an on-site inspection to assess the viability and readiness of your institution.

  1. Prepare for Inspection

Readiness: Ensure that your physical and educational infrastructure is fully prepared for inspection. This includes having classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other facilities in line with program requirements. Demonstrate the availability and accessibility of resources necessary for delivering the proposed educational programs.

  1. Address Feedback

Responsive Action: Be prepared to actively engage with the reviewing body, addressing any feedback, questions, or requests for additional information promptly and thoroughly. 

Demonstrating openness to feedback and a commitment to meeting the required standards is crucial during this phase.

Step 4: Receiving Your License

Upon a successful review, your institution will be awarded a License to Operate, marking the beginning of its legal and operational journey in Minnesota's educational landscape.

  1. License Issuance

Official Notification: You will receive an official notification indicating the approval of your license. This document is critical and should be stored securely. It signifies your institution's compliance with Minnesota's educational standards and regulations.

  1. Maintain Compliance

Ongoing Standards Adherence: Holding a License to Operate is contingent upon your institution's continuous adherence to state regulations and standards. This includes maintaining financial stability, academic quality, and operational integrity.

Renewal and Reporting: Be aware of the requirement for annual license renewal and the necessity of regular reporting to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Keeping abreast of any changes in regulations and standards is essential for ensuring long-term compliance and operational success.

Additional Considerations

  1. Conditional Approval

In certain cases, conditional approval may be granted, allowing your institution time to meet specific criteria or complete the accreditation process. Conditional approval from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education allows new institutions to start operations while still working to meet certain criteria or completing the accreditation process. 

This approval is time-bound and requires meeting specific benchmarks for full compliance. Institutions should use this period for strategic planning, focusing on improving financial stability, facilities, and academic programs to meet or exceed the required standards. 

Maintaining open and frequent communication with the Office is crucial to demonstrate progress and facilitate the transition to full licensure.

  1. Ongoing Accreditation Efforts

Pursuing accreditation from recognized agencies is crucial for institutions operating with a state license in Minnesota. Accreditation boosts the credibility and recognition of your programs, ensures academic quality and integrity, and significantly benefits your institution by making it eligible for federal financial aid, enhancing credit transferability, and improving student enrollment. 

The process involves a thorough self-evaluation of your institution’s academic programs, governance, financial stability, student services, and mission, helping to identify and strengthen areas for improvement.

  1. Transparency with Students

Transparency with students about your institution's accreditation status is essential for clear communication, informed decision-making, and building trust. It's important to inform students about how accreditation affects credit transferability and federal financial aid eligibility. Providing accurate information enables students to make informed choices about their education. 

Regularly updating students on the progress of accreditation efforts and any status changes demonstrates the institution's commitment to high educational standards and accountability.


Obtaining a license to operate a non-accredited university in Minnesota is a detailed process that underscores the state’s commitment to high educational standards. Hiring a qualified and well versed “accreditation consultant” makes the process much easier and more enjoyable. Our team of license and accreditation consultants is here to guide you through each step, ensuring that your institution not only meets but exceeds the expectations set forth by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. For personalized assistance or to start your application process, reach out to Expert Education Consultants (EEC) at +19252089037 or email sandra@experteduconsult.com.

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