The Commission for Independent Education (CIE) is a division of the Florida Department of Education that has statutory responsibilities in matters related to nonpublic, postsecondary, educational institutions such as career schools, colleges, and universities. Institutions must obtain a Florida license to operate granted by CIE before opening their doors to the public or making any form of advertisement.
In keeping with the Florida Department of Education's goal of producing a seamless educational system, the commission's functions include consumer protection, program improvement, institutional policies and administration, data management, and the licensure of independent schools, colleges, and universities.
13 - What should I expect after initial approval?
14 - What are the benefits of accreditation?
15 - Will our programs be eligible for federal financial aid funding?
16 - When can we apply for federal financial aid funding?
17 - When can we apply for SEVP certification and enroll individuals with an I-20 international student visa?
Not all programs approved by a state Department of Education are eligible for federal financial aid. As a general rule, programs of 600 hours duration or more are eligible for financial aid. Our recommendation is for new institution owners to have this conversation with someone knowledgeable about the topic and make an informed decision on what programs to include in the initial application for the provisional license. Schools are not allowed to make changes or add programs until the school has achieved annual license status.
Yes, the process is the same for all schools applying in the State of Florida. Depending on the type of institution, additional requirements may apply. For example, schools with nursing programs must present the Florida Board of Nursing program approvals. Schools with programs that include a practicum must present the affiliation agreements for the sites where students will complete their practical experience. Online schools must present copies of contracts with the platform to be used for the online delivery (LMS), and electronic library services.
Accreditation is not a requirement nor a prerequisite to obtaining a state license or permit to open a school.
July 26 and 27, 2022
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Licensed institutions considering enrolling nonimmigrant students need to complete the process of school certification with the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). To learn about the process, visit our page on SEVP School Certification.
12 - The application process for a provisional Florida school license
A religious college or university may operate without governmental oversight if the college annually verifies by sworn affidavit to the commission required information as listed on the Florida Commission on Independent Education Religious Institution page. The commission may provide such religious institutions a letter stating they are not subject to governmental oversight. Application for religious institution letter of exemption.
Prior to starting the work on the application, we recommend new school owners complete the homework included on our page Start a Vocational School or College in Florida.
For a detailed explanation of the application process step by step, timing, requirements, documentation, fees, and the list of boards that also require approval visit How to Open a School or College in Florida.
Now that you are ready to get the work going, visit How to Complete CIE New Institution Application for an explanation of each one of the items of the provisional Florida license application and tips. You can do it!
The application process for a Florida license by an international university is the same as for any other institution, however, there are additional aspects to be considered. Among others, the international institution will be required to have a Florida campus, operate with personnel from the Florida campus, and meet all requirements as any other local institution applying for a provisional license in the State of Florida. The institution must be owned by a legal entity incorporated in the United States. We recommend international institutions is to take the time to inform themselves about all those additional elements before starting the process of application.
Private higher education institutions are all required to first obtain a license to operate in Florida. Higher education refers to education that is provided by universities, colleges, vocational schools, trade schools, and career schools. It is also referred to as postsecondary education. These institutions award degrees, diplomas, and professional certifications.
Our services as Florida Commission for Independent Education consultants have helped many new owners with the license for their vocational schools, colleges, and universities. The commission requirements for initial approval and ongoing compliance are explained on this page. Included next, find the most common questions by new Florida school owners organized in four sections for easy access:
The Commission on Independent Education meetings are conducted every other month: January, March, May, July, September, and November. Deadlines for new institution applications are usually five months in advance. Included next are the dates and deadlines for 2022:
March 29-30, 2022
Deadline: November 1, 2021
May 3-4, 2022
Deadline: January 1, 2022
July 26-27, 2022
Deadline: March 3, 2022
September 29-30, 2022
Deadline: May 1, 2022
November 17-18, 2022
Deadline: July 1, 2022
Institutions that have received accreditation status from an approved accrediting agency may apply for federal student financial aid given all requirements are met, and programs are eligible. The process may take between 9 and 18 months. Timing varies depending on the Department of Education workload at the time your application is submitted.
All institutions require a license (or state approval) to operate. Schools may choose to pursue the status of accreditation after operating for a minimum of two years (depending on the chosen accrediting agency). For most institutions, accreditation status is not required. Certain Florida Boards and Councils may require programmatic accreditation such as the nursing board. Accreditation gives institutions the ability to provide Federal Financial Aid to students for programs that qualify (not all programs qualify for Federal Financial Aid).
Schools receive an annual onsite visit and are required to report information on enrollments, graduates, and placements each November. Renewals are also annual, as well as the payment of fees to the commission. We recommend institution owners familiarize themselves with the Commission's Rules and Laws in order to maintain compliance and avoid any situations that could keep the school on provisional status, or call for the closing of the institution. Watching CIE meeting webcasts is a must to keep abreast with your sector and regulation news.
1 - What is the Florida Commission for Independent Education?
2 - When is the next CIE meeting?
3 - How can I access CIE’s meeting agenda and link to webcasts?
4 - What are CIE’s 2022 meeting dates and deadlines?
5 - What type of institutions require a Florida License to operate?
6 - Is the Florida license application process the same for all types of institutions?
7 - How to request CIE’s exemption for a Florida religious college or university
8 - What is the process for an international university to open in the United States?
9 - Is a license to operate the same as accreditation?
10 - Is accreditation a requirement for a state license?
11 - CIE’s Important Links
18 - New Florida school license consulting services
19 - Pages with related content
20 - Schedule a complimentary consultation
We hope the information included on this page has answered your questions regarding the commission and new school applications. Still needing assistance with your Florida school application? We are glad to help! Request a free consultation by calling 786-618-277, emailing [email protected], or completing the free session request form. Our experience as Florida Commission for Independent Education consultants is readily available to help you obtain state approval and maintain continuous compliance.
Accreditation is a requirement for most state and federal funding sources. Institutions may apply for accreditation between one to two years after receiving their first license to operate. The accreditation process takes an average of 18 months to 2 years, and the approval depends heavily on how well the institution has managed its records and operations for the past two years. Visit our page on school accreditation to learn about recommended accrediting agencies, eligibility requirements, and a checklist to get started.
Interested in learning more? Visit the following pages for information on relevant topics for school owners: