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

To secure a license for establishing and operating a non-accredited university in Mississippi, it is essential to meticulously follow a series of detailed steps. These steps, formulated based on the extensive regulations, standards, and procedures set by the state, serve as a comprehensive roadmap for navigating through the intricate requirements mandated by the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation (MCCA) among other pertinent regulatory entities. 

From the very beginning, when you're just starting to think about the big picture and asking questions like, "How much does it cost to open a university?" If you're looking for more advanced information, such as research into potential states and the question, "What's the best state to open a university?" then this guide is for you. This guide is thoughtfully designed to assist prospective university founders in understanding and adhering to the legal, academic, and operational benchmarks that ensure the institution's potential for success and compliance. 

Participation in this process will provide stakeholders with the knowledge they need to meet the educational requirements of the state of Mississippi, which will pave the way for the future creation of a respected and successful non-accredited institution in the state's ever-changing educational scene.

Step 1: Understand Basic Eligibility and Legal Compliance

  • Ensure your institution plans to comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, and regulations.
  • Your university should be domiciled in Mississippi, conducting academic activities within the state.
  • Review the Commission’s standards for academic degree-granting postsecondary institutions to ensure potential compliance.

Step 2: Establish Governance Structure

  • Formation of the Governing Board: Establish a governing board with a minimum of five members to lead the institution toward achieving its strategic objectives, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, and maintaining high academic integrity.
  • Selection of Board Members: Choose governing board members based on their expertise, dedication to education, and their potential to support the university's mission and future prosperity.
  • Role of the Governing Body: The governing board is fundamental to the university's governance, responsible for ensuring adherence to MCCA regulations, setting strategic direction, and aligning university operations with higher education best practices.
  • Development of Governance System: Define the roles and responsibilities of the governing board in relation to executive officers, and implement transparent policies and procedures to facilitate effective governance that upholds the institution's mission, ensures integrity, and protects stakeholder interests.

Step 3: Prepare Qualifications of Institutional Officers

  • Review Officer Qualifications: Verify that all institutional officers, including governing board members and administrators, possess the requisite education, character, and higher education experience to support the institution's compliance with MCCA standards and contribute to progress towards accreditation.
  • Chief Academic Officer Criteria: The chief academic officer should hold an advanced degree, ideally an earned doctorate, from an institution accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. This individual must exhibit proficiency in curriculum development, understanding of accreditation standards and processes, and possess strong leadership qualities to foster faculty development and student success.
  • Record of Effective Leadership: For renewal applications, it is crucial that institutional officers demonstrate a history of effective management, showing improvements and progress in the institution's operations and adherence to MCCA guidelines.

Step 4: Submit Application for Authorization

(1) Gather Required Documents

Compile a comprehensive application package for the MCCA that includes:

  • The institution’s charter, articles of incorporation, or certificate of authorization.
  • The most current institutional catalog detailing academic programs, admissions policies, and financial information.
  • Student enrollment applications and contracts/agreements.
  • Evidence of financial stability, such as financial records and reports audited by a certified public accountant.
  • Documentation of institutional and, where applicable, programmatic accreditation status from recognized accrediting agencies.

(2) Pay the Application Fee

Attach a nonrefundable application fee with your submission. The fee amount varies; refer to the most recent MCCA fee schedule for the correct amount. This fee supports the review and processing of your application by the Commission.

(3) Submit The Application

Ensure the complete application, along with all required documents and the application fee, is submitted to the Commission by the specified deadline. Adherence to submission guidelines and deadlines is critical for the timely review and processing of your application.

Step 5: Demonstrate Financial Resources and Stability

To ensure the sustainability and quality of educational offerings, it's crucial to provide transparent evidence of your institution's financial health. This involves:

  • Detailed Financial Planning: Develop comprehensive financial plans that demonstrate your institution's capacity to support current and future academic offerings, infrastructure, faculty, and student services without compromising quality.
  • Annual Independent Audit: Prepare for and submit an annual audit of your institution's fiscal accounts, conducted by a certified public accountant. This audit should be comprehensive, covering all financial activities and demonstrating prudent financial management practices. Ensure the audit adheres to the guidelines set forth by the National Association of College and University Business Officers or other recognized standards.
  • Financial Stability Documentation: Along with the audit, submit documentation that evidences your institution's financial stability. This may include proof of reserves, endowments, or other financial assets that ensure the institution's ability to fulfill its educational commitments to students, even in challenging financial circumstances.

Step 6: Institutional Assessment and Program Evaluation

Commit to a culture of continuous improvement through systematic assessment and evaluation:

  • Institutional Assessment Framework: Develop and implement a robust framework for assessing all aspects of the institution’s operations, from academic offerings to administrative efficiency and student support services. This should involve regular reviews and the use of metrics to gauge performance against set objectives.
  • Program Evaluation Procedures: Establish clear procedures for the regular evaluation of academic programs. This includes assessing their alignment with the institution's mission, responsiveness to labor market demands, and effectiveness in promoting student success. Utilize feedback from employers, alumni, and current students to inform program improvements and adjustments.
  • Outcome-Based Metrics: Define specific, measurable outcomes for program success, including graduation rates, job placement rates, and performance on licensure examinations where applicable. These metrics should guide the development and refinement of academic programs to ensure they meet the needs of students and employers alike.

Step 7: Ensure Adequate Faculty and Curriculum Standards

Upholding high standards for faculty qualifications and curriculum design is essential for delivering quality education:

  • Faculty Qualifications: Confirm that all faculty members meet or exceed the qualifications standards set by the Commission. This includes verifying that faculty teaching undergraduate general education courses hold at least a master’s degree in the discipline or a related area, with a minimum of eighteen graduate semester credit hours in the subject they are teaching. For graduate-level courses, faculty should ideally hold doctorate degrees or the highest degrees available in their fields.
  • Curriculum Development: Ensure your curriculum is thoughtfully designed to meet the quality, content, and sequencing standards required for each program of study. Incorporate a comprehensive general education component that covers key areas such as Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics, and fosters skills in written and oral communication, as well as critical thinking.
  • Program Alignment and Sequencing: Design each program so that courses build upon one another in a logical sequence, advancing students’ knowledge and skills progressively. Regularly review and update the curriculum to reflect current academic and industry standards, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for their chosen careers or further study.

Step 8: Prepare for Learning Resources, Facilities, and Academic Records Maintenance

  • Secure learning resources, including books, publications, and online materials, that support the institution’s mission.
  • Ensure facilities are adequate, safe, and supportive of quality education.
  • Set up a system to securely and permanently maintain academic records for each student.

Step 9: Accurate Representation and Student Services

  • Ensure all publications and advertising accurately represent the institution, its programs, and its accreditation status.
  • Develop a comprehensive student services program, including academic advising, counseling, and a clear policy on student rights and responsibilities.

Step 10: Submit to Review and Site Visits

  • Be prepared for the Commission or its appointed evaluation team to review your application, which may include site visits to assess compliance with standards and regulations.

Step 11: Address Health and Safety and Learning Outcomes

  • Implement a program of health and safety education that addresses the needs of students.
  • Establish a system for assessing and documenting learning outcomes to demonstrate educational achievement.

Step 12: Await Commission Decision

  • After submission, the Commission will review your application at its next scheduled meeting. The process includes an evaluation of your institution's compliance with the standards and a decision on your application.

Step 13: Compliance with Changes and Institutional Closure Policies

  • Be aware of the procedures for notifying the Commission about significant changes or in the event of institutional closure.
  • Develop teach-out plans and agreements in compliance with Commission standards for an orderly closure process, if necessary.

Step 14: Continuous Compliance and Renewal

  • Once licensed, adhere to ongoing compliance with all Commission standards, including the submission of annual reports, maintaining accreditation, and responding to any required follow-up or monitoring.

Throughout this process, maintain open communication with the Commission, promptly responding to any requests for additional information or clarification. Keep abreast of any changes in regulations or standards to ensure continued compliance and successful operation of your non-accredited university in Mississippi. Also, consider hiring a qualified and experienced “accreditation consultant” to hold your hand and represent you with the state officials. This will not only save you the hassle, but will also save you a lot of wasted time and resources.

For personalized assistance or to start your application process, reach out to Expert Education Consultants (EEC) at +19252089037 or email sandra@experteduconsult.com. Let our team of experts guide you through the process.

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