Legislation and Rules

CURRENT STATUTES AND RULES

The Higher Education Authorization Act of 2016, T.C.A. §49-7-2001 et seq.T.C.A. §49-7-144, and Rule Chapters 1540-01-02 and 1540-01-10 govern the regulation of postsecondary educational institutions.

RECENT LEGISLATION

Governor Lee signed 2022 Tenn. Pub. Ch. No. 1044 on May 11, 2022. The legislation was effective July 1, 2022, and refines how Tennessee regulates postsecondary educational institutions as defined in Title 49, Chapter 7, Part 20. The legislation streamlines the state authorization process and codifies current practices, while maintaining important consumer protections and institution accountability.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LEGISLATION ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Dissolving the Committee on Postsecondary Educational Institutions;
  • Empowering the Executive Director to award provisional authorization subject to review and ratification by the Commission;
  • Allowing for annual compliance certifications when multi-year authorization is awarded;
  • Deleting the “degree-granting” limitation for Optional Expedited Authorization thereby allowing any accredited institution to take advantage of this authorization pathway created by the 2016 Act;
  • Removing the requirement that THEC conduct annual site visits as part of the reauthorization process while retaining the authority to conduct site visits when warranted;
  • Eliminating the requirements for agent permits and agent bonds;
  • Revising bonding requirements such that all institutions will submit a bond in the same amount and providing that an institution cannot operate beyond ninety (90) days without a bond;
  • Providing that a successful tuition guarantee fund claim be paid directly to the student; and
  • Changing program approval terminology to program registration.

EMERGENCY AND PERMANENT RULES INFORMATIONAL SESSIONS

The Division of Postsecondary State Authorization (DPSA) presented an Informational Session regarding the Emergency and Permanent Rules on July 8, 2022. A session was presented for both the Regularly Authorized (RA) and Optional Expedited Authorization (OEA). The training also addressed the new opportunity for institutions that are accredited but do not offer degrees to apply for OEA.

The training explained the Emergency Rules and the next steps in the rulemaking hearing process as explained below.

The PDF presentations and recordings from each session are available below:

    Rulemaking Training for Regularly Authorized Institutions PDF Presentation

     Rulemaking Training for Regularly Authorized Institutions WebEx Recording

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     Rulemaking Training for Optionally Expedited  Authorized Institutions PDF Presentation

     Emergency Rules Training for OEA Institutions WebEx Recording

EMERGENCY RULEMAKING

On May 19, 2022, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) adopted Emergency Rules to implement the provisions of 2022 Tenn. Pub. Ch. 1044, until permanent rules can be promulgated through the rulemaking hearing process of the Uniform administrative Procedures Act. The Emergency Rules amend the March 2017 version of Rule Chapter 1540-01-02 and 1540-01-10. The published Emergency Rules are available HERE.

Highlights of the rule revisions are as follows:

  • Removing references to the Committee on Postsecondary Educational Institutions and revising the roles of the Commission, Executive Director, and Commission Staff accordingly;
  • Adding and revising definitions;
  • Allowing for submission of certain applications on a rolling basis;
  • Providing notice as to the Commission’s application review process;
  • Allowing for authorization for up to four (4) years with the requirement that the institution submit a Certification of Compliance in years one (1), two (2), and three (3);
  • Creating minimum requirements for new forms, such as the Certification of Compliance, and revising requirements for forms affected by the bill, such as the Program Registration Request;
  • Deleting references to agent permits and agent bonds, including the fees associated with applications for permits;
  • Stating that student level statistical data is due by October 15 each year;
  • Providing that a student who asserts a complaint against regularly authorized institutions must first exhaust the grievance process at the institution and detailing the  complaint review process for all complaints;
  • Deleting the degree-granting limitation to eligibility for Optional Expedited Authorization (OEA); and
  • Allowing institutions that have had OEA revoked to reapply when the grounds for revocation have been resolved.

RULEMAKING HEARING RULES

On May 23, 2022, THEC filed a Notice of Rulemaking Hearing with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State Notice of Rulemaking Hearing form is available HERE.

     Per the notice, the rulemaking hearing was held  July 14, 2022, 10:00 A.M. CST / 11:00 A.M. EST at Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Nashville, TN  37243-1102 in Conference Room D. 

The hearing is an open meeting; however, please email Marcie.Mills@tn.gov if you will attend so that you will be listed as an attendee. You may also submit written comments. Written comments must be received by July 11, 2022, to ensure consideration. All comments should be directed to Marcie.Mills@tn.gov. In addition, to the above bulleted Emergency Rule highlights, the Rulemaking Hearing Rules highlights also include:

  • Explains when an unaccredited institution may accept fees more than ten (10) days prior to a student’s start date;
  •  Provides guidance related to requirements for cleaning or similar tasks as part of a program of instruction;
  • Requires student complainants to exhaust the grievance process at the institution;
  •  Revises contents of the pre-enrollment checklist and enrollment agreement;
  • Allows for annual financial statements to be completed for the fiscal year that ended prior to one hundred-twenty (120) calendar days of the application or certification due date;
  • Changes the cancellation and refund policy; 
  •  Clarifies the distinction between a refund and unearned tuition owed by a closing institution;
  • Amends the refund of regulatory fees language;
  • Clarifies the definition of owner; and
  • Elaborates on the safeguards that may be required along with an awarded of provisional authorization status

CHANGES TO AUTHORIZATION END DATES

Rule 1540-01-02-.02(02)(g) of the adopted emergency rules provides: “The Executive Director is empowered to extend authorization time periods of institutions authorized as of July 1, 2022, in order to effectuate the purposes of the Act and these rules. At the Executive Director’s direction, Commission staff shall post on the Commission’s website notice of authorization extensions and future filing requirements and provide notification of the posting to institutions via email.”

The Executive Director’s memorandum is available  HERE. Addtional information on the authorization and review process is available HERE.