Protocol for Opening a College in New York State
In New York State, establishing a college or university requires authorization from the Board of Regents to confer degrees. The Regents will consider granting degree authority after the State Education Department conducts in-depth and comprehensive academic, fiscal, and planning reviews. The reviews determine whether the institution and its proposed programs meet the standards of quality for colleges set forth in Education Law, the Rules of the Board of Regents, and Commissioner’s Regulations. The Regents also consider whether adequate demand and need exists for the proposed college and programs.
The following guidance reviews the standards, requirements, expectations, and processes for establishing a college and provides connections to appropriate sections of law and regulation. An interested entity should review all of this information first and affirm its commitment to these standards before contacting the Office of College and University Evaluation (OCUE).
Before reviewing the application protocol, please note the following information...
Applications to open a college in New York will be accepted only during the following periods:
Time Frame for Review:
The complete process for review of a new application for degree-granting authority will take a year or longer depending on the number of pending applications and other Office priorities. The Department is committed to conducting a preliminary check of the materials received within sixty (60) business days of the close of the application window. A reply letter will indicate whether the proposal will move to full review or is incomplete and has been withdrawn from further consideration. If the proposal proceeds, OCUE will provide an estimate of when the full review will commence based on pre-existing office commitments.
Office of College and University Evaluation
89 Washington Avenue
Telephone: 518: 474-1551
FAX: 518: 486-2779
- Institutional Self-Study (120KB)
- Report of the institution’s external reviewers, selected in consultation with OCUE, along with the institution’s response to the reviews
- Responses to all questions in the document entitled “Information Needed for Reviewing Proposals for Degree Authority”
- Program Registration: in addition to reviewing the institution as a whole, OCUE must evaluate each proposed program of study. Please review OCUE's program registration guidance document for more information about program registration standards and expectations. A complete program registration application will be needed for each proposed program. If a program requires an external review, the institution should contact OCUE for approval of proposed evaluators.
- Certification of Continued Compliance of the Institution Applying for Permanent Authority to Grant Degrees
An organization wishing to establish a college that grants doctoral degrees should contact OCUE at (518) 474-1551 for information about additional requirements and protocols.
- The Statewide Plan for Higher Education 2012 - 2020
- Sections 3.47 and 3.50 of the Rules of the Board of Regents concerning earned degrees
- Section 3.58 of the Rules of the Board of Regents concerning proprietary college degree-conferring authority
- Excerpts from the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education
- Law Pamphlet 9 – Education Corporations.
Application Procedures and Review Protocols for All Proposed Colleges
All organizations (proprietary and not-for profit) seeking degree authority must submit a complete proposal to OCUE.
In addition, non-profit applicants need to submit a petition for a provisional charter to the Education Department’s Office of Counsel; for-profit applicants who meet the conditions noted above need to submit a request to OCUE for Commissioner’s consent to amendment of a certificate of incorporation to be filed with the NYS Department of State .
Note: special provisions apply to proposed for-profit institutions.
Phase 1 of the Review:
OCUE begins its assessment through a review of the required proposal components (self-study, program registration applications, external review reports of proposed programs, etc.). In addition, the Department may conduct a thorough financial review.
The purpose of phase one of the review is to make an initial assessment of the institution's ability to comply with New York's standards and policies for colleges and universities. The Department may request additional information to inform its assessment. If an application is incomplete, the Department may deny and discard the application.
Phase 2 of the Review:
If OCUE determines the institution has submitted a complete and viable application, it will schedule visit(s) to existing and/or proposed sites by staff and peer reviewers with appropriate expertise.
The site visit team will assess institutional capacity and compliance with State authorization standards. Typically, teams include academic specialists, administrators, librarians, financial officers, registrars, and others to assess the full range of the institution's operations.
At the time of the site visit, all elements of the degree-granting program(s) must be in place, including a core of full-time faculty. If the entity does not have all elements in place, the site visit may be deferred at OCUE's discretion.
OCUE sends the applicant written confirmation of the visit dates and announces the members of the proposed team, asking about any concerns with team members and requesting that team members be sent copies of the proposal materials. Any negative information received prior to the visit that affects the institution’s current circumstances may delay the visit.
After the site visit, OCUE prepares and sends the applicant a draft site visit report of findings and recommendations. The institution then reviews the draft report and responds in writing with its comments and/or corrections of fact. Following the review of the institution’s response, the Department will issue a final report.
The comprehensive review takes the following factors into consideration as well:
- status of any State or Federal audit disallowances of student aid funds;
- recent review findings by any governmental or accrediting agency;
- compliance of existing school(s), owner(s), and officers with State and Federal laws and requirements; record of felony convictions;
- extent to which proposed institution meets quality standards in rules and regulations (academic and financial).
A negative finding concerning any of these factors will result in rejection or delay of the proposal.
When all materials are in order, the academic and financial reviews have been completed, and it appears that all standards and requirements are met, OCUE conducts a planning review that includes a canvass of all colleges in the region of the proposed institution. Comments from these institutions will be shared with the proposing entity for response as needed. A potentially affected college may request a public hearing, which would be scheduled by the Department and chaired by a member of the Board of Regents.
Upon completion of the planning review, the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education sends the Commissioner a summary of the proposal and an analysis of comments with a recommendation regarding degree-conferring authorization. The Commissioner’s office, in turn, forwards the recommendation to the Regents.
Upon approval by the Regents, the Deputy Commissioner advises the applicant of the Regents vote and OCUE registers the degree program(s). The Regents would issue a provisional charter to a non-profit institution; in the case of a for-profit institution, the Regents would grant provisional authority to award degrees.
Note: under section 217 of Education Law, an institution that holds a provisional charter is not authorized to confer its own degrees. The Board of Regents confers degrees on
graduates of an institution that holds a provisional charter, if the institution provides acceptable transcripts that demonstrate that candidates completed programs registered by the New York State Education Department.
Follow Up After Initial Authorization
The initial registration letter will advise that no major initiatives may be undertaken within two years of receiving degree authority. Major initiatives are defined as new programs, new degrees, new degree levels, and off-campus locations. Following notice of the registration of the initial programs, the new college may advertise the degree programs and admit students.
- The institution will be asked to submit a progress report after one year.The institution may contact OCUE to set up a meeting to discuss matters such as developing a standard of progress and obligations to be met, e.g., annual fiscal reports.
- Within two years of the first offering of the registered programs, OCUE will conduct a follow-up visit to determine whether the college is meeting standards. No new programs may be registered until the follow-up review has judged the existing registered programs to be in compliance with regulatory standards.
Absolute Charter/Permanent Authority
At the expiration of the period for which a provisional charter was issued to a non-profit college, the institution may petition the Regents to have its provisional charter made absolute. Until an absolute charter is granted, the Regents award the degrees to students completing the registered programs. As noted in the section “Special Provisions for Proposed For-Profit Colleges,” a for-profit institution with provisional authority to grant degrees may apply to OCUE for permanent authority to grant degrees at least 12 months prior to the expiration of its provisional authority to confer degrees. (Typically, provisional authority is granted for five years.)
If an in-State, for-profit organization wishes to establish a for-profit (proprietary) college, it must first apply to the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision for licensure as a non-degree, post-secondary school. It must also be able to demonstrate that it has been in successful operation as a licensed private school under the current ownership for a minimum of two years and has graduated at least one class in the curriculum for which degree authority and registration are sought. An out-of-state proprietary college that wishes to establish a campus in New York State does not need to meet this provision.
Provisional Degree Authority
A proprietary institution seeking degree authority that has met the conditions in the previous paragraph must first receive provisional authority from the Board of Regents to confer degrees.
Section 3.58(c)(2) of the Rules of the Board of Regents sets forth the four areas in which the Department seeks evidence of a proprietary institution’s capacity to operate a degree-granting institution under provisional authority: