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School and Agent Authorization

The Division of Postsecondary State Authorization oversees and monitors private proprietary, for-profit, and not-for-profit schools offering training or education leading to a vocation, college credit or issuance of an educational credential. 

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Authorization may be granted to both degree and non-degree granting institutions and encompasses a wide variety of schools such as: academic, trade, technical, career, professional, and out-of-state institutions with presence, advertisement, and/or recruitment practices in Tennessee. Related areas include:

  • Assisting individuals or businesses seeking authorization to operate a postsecondary educational institution or make a determination of exemption from the provisions of the Postsecondary Education Authorization Act of 1974.
  • Supplying information and assistance to prospective schools interested in submitting an Initial Authorization Application to operate as a postsecondary school in the state. An Initial Authorization Application may be obtained by calling DPSA at (615) 741-5293.
  • Authorized institutions interested in offering new programs must submit a new program application prior to offering the proposed program(s). 
  • Establishing and requiring compliance with minimum standards for school administration, operation and educational quality as well as authorizing the use of degrees, diplomas, certificates or any other educational credentials.
  • Reviewing applications for agent’s permit.

School Authorization

All postsecondary educational institutions operating in Tennessee should be authorized, unless an exemption has been granted by the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization. If an educational provider feels that their operation is exempt based on the contents of this webpage, they should consult directly with the Postsecondary School Authorization staff for determination of their status.

  • Authorization
  • Exemption
  • Initial Authorization or New Program Application
  • Application Deadlines and Meeting Dates
  • Minimum Standards
  • Distance Education
  • Authorization is the process of determining if a postsecondary educational institution has met minimum standards for operation in the state. Essentially, any entity that offers or conducts a program, course(s) or training toward a vocational end or that offers an educational credential must be authorized. Authorization is also required for any educational provider that directly solicits, advertises or recruits in the state and for any out-of-state school, including distance education providers that have physical presence in Tennessee.

    The authorization process includes: completing the Initial Authorization Application, payment of all appropriate fees, securing required bonds, meeting all minimum standards and final approval by vote of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

  • Some educational providers are not required to seek postsecondary authorization and are hence exempt from the provisions of the Postsecondary Education Authorization Act of 1974.

    Exemptions can include:

    • Training that is exclusively for self-improvement or personal enrichment (non-vocational and non-credential granting).
    • Training that is offered free to students, such as closed enrollment private contracts offered to select groups or employees at no cost.
    • Training offered in and through a state licensed health care facility.
    • Non-profit colleges and universities established with their primary campus in Tennessee for a minimum of ten years and with accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

    For further information on exemptions, consult T.C.A. § 49-7-2004 and Rules 1540-01-02-.05 and .08.

  • Anyone required to or interested in becoming a postsecondary institution in the state of Tennessee should obtain a copy of the Postsecondary Authorization Act of 1974, T.C.A. §49-7-2001 et seq., and the Postsecondary Rules Chapter 1540-01-02 along with the Initial Authorization Application.
    • Entities interested in operating a postsecondary institution in the state of Tennessee must submit an initial authorization application to the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization.
    • Authorized institutions interested in offering new programs must submit a new program application prior to offering the proposed program(s).

    The Initial Authorization Application may be obtained by calling the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization at 615-741-5293 or sending an e-mail to Teresa.Warren@tn.gov. Initial Authorization or New Program Applications must be submitted by the established deadlines for consideration at one of the annual quarterly meetings of the Commission.

  • Application Deadlines & Meeting Dates  
  • In order to become authorized as a postsecondary educational institution in the state, the school must meet a variety of minimum standards including:

    For a complete description of the minimum standards, refer to T.C.A. §49-7-2006 and the Postsecondary Rules Chapter 1540-01-02-.06 and 1540-01-02-.10.

    • Educational programs with demonstrated quality, content and appropriate length
    • Compliant administrative, business and operational standards
    • Qualified instructors and administrative staff
    • Financial stability

    For a complete description of the minimum standards, refer to T.C.A. §49-7-2006 and the Postsecondary Rules Chapter 1540-01-02-.06 and 1540-01-02-.10.

  • In today's educational market there are literally thousands of distance education providers around the world. Distance education simply means that there is physical separation of the instructor and student. The means of communication can be in many forms including paper correspondence, video, audio, teleconference, internet or any combination of such. Distance education programs are held to the same minimum standards as traditional on-site programs.