Guide to Obtaining Approval for a Non-Accredited Degree-Granting Institution in Wisconsin

Starting a non-accredited degree-granting institution in the state of Wisconsin is a detailed process that requires comprehensive planning and adherence to specific state guidelines. If you are in the early stages of calculating the financial commitment involved by asking yourself "how much does it cost to open a university?", or if you are beyond this step and are exploring where to start your university and wondering "which is the best state to open a university?", this guide serves as a comprehensive resource. It will provide you with an exhaustive look at the steps needed to navigate through the application process, helping you understand the requirements of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Program (EAP).


Wisconsin, like many other states, has a vested interest in ensuring that educational institutions operating within its borders meet certain standards of quality and integrity. To operate a non-accredited degree-granting institution, you must obtain approval from the EAP, which serves as the regulatory body for postsecondary educational institutions in the state. The process not only involves compliance but also focuses on institutional effectiveness and the capacity for continuous improvement.

Overview of the Approval Process

The approval process is methodical and consists of several key stages:

  1. Preliminary Research
  2. Application Preparation
  3. Submission of Application
  4. Program Review
  5. Compliance and Performance Evaluation
  6. Final Submission and Review
  7. Post-Approval Requirements

Each of these stages is critical and requires attention to detail and thorough preparation.

  1. Preliminary Research

It is crucial to establish a solid foundation for your institution's strategic alignment with the educational and workforce demands of Wisconsin.

Understanding the Educational Landscape

Begin by examining the current educational landscape in Wisconsin. What types of degrees are being offered by existing institutions? Is there a saturation in certain fields of study or a gap that your institution could potentially fill? Analyze trends in enrollment and graduation rates across different disciplines to gauge student interest and market viability.

Demand for Degrees

Conduct market research to identify the demand for the degrees you plan to offer. This involves not only assessing the current market but also predicting future trends. Look at state and national employment data to understand where job growth is occurring. Tools like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can provide insight into job projections and the educational qualifications required for those positions.

Consider reaching out to local businesses and industry leaders for direct feedback on their hiring needs. Forming partnerships can lead to tailor-made programs that directly respond to regional workforce demands.

Analyzing Potential Competition

Who are your direct and indirect competitors? You'll need to identify other institutions offering similar degrees and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Consider their program structures, tuition costs, reputation, and the success of their graduates in the job market. Use this analysis to differentiate your institution by identifying unique selling points and competitive advantages.

Labor Market Analysis

A comprehensive labor market analysis will provide insights into the employment rates in fields relevant to your degree programs. Which sectors are growing, and what skills are employers seeking? Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development can be a valuable resource for this information.

Additionally, consider the geographic distribution of industries within the state. Are there areas with a high demand for certain professions that are underserved by current educational institutions? Your institution could potentially fill this niche.

Aligning with State Standards and Workforce Needs

Your institution's mission and curriculum should align with the state's educational standards and workforce development goals. Review state educational policies, workforce development plans, and industry standards to ensure your programs are relevant and up to date.

Engaging with Community and Industry Leaders

Engagement with local communities and industry leaders can provide an authentic assessment of the real-world applicability of your programs. Advisory boards consisting of industry professionals, alumni, and community members can guide program development to ensure it meets the needs of employers and the community at large.

Your preliminary research phase is about building a data-driven foundation for your institution. It's about ensuring that you offer degrees that not only attract students but also lead to successful employment outcomes, thereby contributing to the economic well-being of the state of Wisconsin. This phase is the bedrock upon which your institution's value proposition is built, and skipping it could result in programs that are misaligned with market needs, leading to poor enrollment and job placement outcomes.

  1. Application Preparation

  1. Institutional Planning

Institutional Planning is not just a checkbox on your application; it's a comprehensive projection of your school's identity, goals, and strategies for the next several years. The planning document serves as a roadmap for both the institution and the EAP to understand and evaluate the potential for success and growth.

Mission and Vision

Your institution's mission and vision statements are the guiding stars of your educational philosophy. They should clearly articulate the school's purpose, its commitment to education, and the values it upholds. The mission sets the tone for the type of education you provide, while the vision paints a picture of where the institution aims to be in the future. These statements should resonate with prospective students, faculty, and stakeholders.

Market Analysis

The market analysis should offer a granular view of the educational sector your institution will engage in. It should include data-driven insights into potential student demographics, demand for the programs, and an evaluation of the labor market that graduates will enter. This section should also demonstrate an understanding of regional and national trends in higher education and how they might affect your institution.

Management Structure

Detailing your institution's management structure is crucial for demonstrating operational soundness. This should include:

  • Organizational Hierarchy: Provide an organizational chart that outlines the reporting structure and functional roles within the institution.
  • Leadership Profiles: Offer biographies of key administrators, showcasing their experience, qualifications, and vision for the institution. This helps in establishing credibility and trust with the EAP.
  • Advisory Boards: If applicable, detail any advisory boards that will assist in guiding the institution, including members' credentials and the scope of their influence on institutional governance and program development.

  1. Operational Governance

Operational Governance is about establishing who is in charge and how decisions are made, which is essential for maintaining accountability and ensuring that the institution is well-managed.

Legal Structure and Ownership

Your application must clarify the legal structure of your institution. Whether it's a for-profit entity, non-profit, partnership, or corporation, the EAP will want to see a clear ownership structure. This section should also discuss the financial stability and backing of the institution.

  • For-profit or Non-profit: Specify the nature of your institution and provide evidence of incorporation or registration as per Wisconsin's state laws.
  • Ownership Detail: Disclose the names and stakes of all owners or shareholders with a significant interest, as this can impact the strategic direction and financial decisions of the institution.

Contact Information

Comprehensive contact information should be provided, ensuring there are open lines of communication between your institution and the EAP.

Primary Contact: Designate a primary contact person for the application, typically a high-ranking official like the Dean or Director of the institution.

(C) Program Application

Each program that your institution intends to offer must be individually justified and detailed in EAP Form 1.03.

Program Details

  • Name and Objective: Clearly state the program's name and the educational or occupational objectives. What gap in the educational market does this program fill? What opportunities does it offer students?
  • Program Development: Outline the process used to develop the program curriculum, including any industry consultations, expert opinions, and market needs assessments that were conducted.
  • Program Start Date and Length: Specify when the program will begin and the expected duration to complete the degree. This will often correlate with the academic calendar and the structure of the coursework.
  • Delivery Mode: Indicate whether the program is delivered in-person (resident), online (distance learning), or a hybrid of both.

Educational Requirements and Job Placement

  • Entrance Requirements: Detail the admissions criteria and prerequisites for each program.
  • Job Placement Services: Describe the services and support the institution will provide to help graduates find employment, including any partnerships with local businesses or industries.

Costs and Credentials

  • Total Cost: Provide a transparent breakdown of the costs associated with completing the program.
  • Credential Awarded: Indicate the type of degree or certificate graduates will receive upon completion.

The application preparation phase is where you translate your institution’s vision into a coherent, comprehensive plan that meets the EAP’s rigorous standards. It’s a demonstration of your institution's readiness to deliver quality education and produce graduates who are equipped to meet the demands of the workforce. This phase is foundational, setting the stage for how your institution will be perceived and how effectively it will operate within the educational landscape of Wisconsin.

3. Submission of Application

After preparing the necessary documents and information, compile everything into a cohesive application package. This package includes all planning documents, governance information, and individual program applications.

Where to Submit

All materials should be submitted to the following addresses:

  • For USPS: Educational Approval Program, P.O. Box 8366, Madison, WI 53708-8366
  • For FedEx or UPS: Educational Approval Program, 4822 Madison Yards Way, 3rd Floor, Madison, WI 53705

4. Program Review

In-Depth Program Analysis

For each program your institution proposes, a meticulous review process is initiated. This is not a cursory glance but a deep dive into the curriculum's structure, teaching methodologies, resource allocation, and outcome expectations. The EAP requires that the program's quality aligns with both educational standards and market needs.

Third-Party Validation

If a program lacks third-party approval, the EAP mandates an evaluation by a certified evaluator. This evaluator is typically someone with a profound understanding of educational program efficacy and alignment with industry standards. They scrutinize the program's content, learning outcomes, and how these are measured.

Curriculum Relevance

The EAP-approved evaluator examines whether the curriculum is relevant to current and future industry trends. They assess whether the program prepares students with the competencies required for the workforce and whether it incorporates the latest technology and pedagogical innovations.

Effectiveness and Outcomes

The potential effectiveness of the program is analyzed through projected student outcomes. Does the program offer a clear path to employment or advancement in the field? How does it stack up against similar programs in terms of graduate success and employer satisfaction?

5. Compliance and Performance Evaluation

Setting Standards

Your institution is responsible for defining and maintaining rigorous performance and completion standards for each program. These standards are not arbitrary; they must be rooted in empirical data that reflects the proficiency levels employers expect from graduates.

Transparent Communication

These standards must be clearly articulated to prospective and current students. Transparency in what the programs aim to achieve and how they intend to get there builds trust and sets clear expectations for everyone involved.

Employer Expectations

Aligning with employer expectations is not just about meeting current needs but anticipating future industry shifts. Regular consultation with industry partners helps ensure your programs remain relevant and your graduates remain competitive.

6. Final Submission and Review

Comprehensive Review

Upon receiving your application, the EAP conducts a thorough review to ensure every aspect of your institution’s offering is up to par with regulatory standards. This includes a careful examination of your submitted documents against the state’s educational codes.

Additional Information Requests

It's not uncommon for the EAP to request further details or clarifications. This iterative process ensures that all angles are covered and that your institution has addressed any potential oversights.

Approval Criteria

Approval is contingent upon your institution’s ability to demonstrate:

  • Alignment with educational best practices
  • Market demand for the programs offered
  • Efficacy in preparing students for real-world applications
  • Institutional readiness to provide a consistent quality education experience

Your application must not only satisfy the EAP that your institution can meet these criteria at the outset but that it is also committed to ongoing improvement and responsiveness to changing educational and market dynamics.

7. Post-Approval Requirements

Upon receiving approval from the Educational Approval Program (EAP) in Wisconsin, your institution enters a critical phase of maintaining its status and demonstrating ongoing compliance and commitment to educational excellence. This phase is marked by several post-approval requirements designed to ensure the institution remains accountable, transparent, and focused on continuous improvement.

Annual Reports Detailing Institutional Performance

The annual reporting process is a critical component of post-approval requirements. It serves as a comprehensive check-in, providing the EAP with updates on various aspects of your institution's operations and educational outcomes. The annual report typically includes:

  • Enrollment and Graduation Data: Detailed statistics on student enrollment, retention rates, graduation rates, and any notable trends.
  • Academic Assessments: Summaries of academic progress, including the effectiveness of instructional methods and curriculum relevance.
  • Financial Statements: Audited financial reports that reflect the institution's fiscal health and financial practices.
  • Employment Outcomes: Data on graduate employment rates, types of employment obtained, and how effectively the institution's programs translate into job market success.
  • Student Satisfaction: Results from student satisfaction surveys that can provide insights into the student experience and areas for improvement.
  • Accreditation Status: If applicable, updates on the institution's accreditation status, including any reviews, renewals, or changes in accreditation.

Regular Updates on Significant Changes

Institutions are required to inform the EAP of any substantial changes that could affect their operations or program offerings. This includes:

  • Program Modifications: Substantial changes to the curriculum, program length, or mode of delivery.
  • Ownership or Governance Changes: Any alterations in ownership structures, governance, or key administrative personnel.
  • Facility Updates: Changes in location, campus expansions, or major facility upgrades.
  • Policy Revisions: Updates to institutional policies that affect academic standards, student services, or administrative processes.

The intent is to ensure that any significant modification is aligned with the standards of quality and integrity that the EAP upholds.


In conclusion, establishing a non-accredited degree-granting institution in Wisconsin is a complex procedure that necessitates a high level of diligence and dedication to educational excellence. The Wisconsin Educational Approval Program (EAP) governs the process, which is intended to ensure that institutions not only follow state rules but also endeavor to improve their services on an ongoing basis.

Following approval, the attention switches to upholding high standards through annual performance reports and updates on any important institutional changes. These continuous requirements are critical for proving your institution's commitment to excellence and ability to adapt to a changing educational landscape.

The journey from application to approval and beyond represents a commitment to providing an empowering educational experience that is consistent with the state's values and fulfills the needs of students and the workforce. It is a commitment to significantly impact Wisconsin's educational community and your students' future success. Hiring a qualified “accreditation consultant” will certainly make the process much easier and save you a lot of valuable time.

For personalized guidance on navigating the authorization process for your new university in Wisconsin, reach out to Expert Education Consultants (EEC) at +19252089037 or email sandra@experteduconsult.com. Allow our team of seasoned professionals to simplify your journey towards establishing a successful educational institution. 

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