12 - The application process for a new Florida school license
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.
Religious colleges and universities may apply for an exception to operate without governmental oversight. The requirements and process are published on the Florida Commission Religious Institution's Page. Download the Religious Institution Letter of Exemption Application.
18 - New Florida school license consulting services
19 - Pages with related content
20 - Schedule a complimentary consultation
The process is the same for all schools applying for a license with the Florida Commission on Independent Education. Additional requirements may apply depending on the institution's scope. Schools with nursing programs present Florida Board of Nursing program approvals. Schools with programs with clinicals present affiliation agreements for the sites where students will complete their practical experience. Online schools present copies of contracts with the platform to be used for the online delivery (LMS), and electronic library services.
We recommend new school owners visit our page Start a Vocational School or College in Florida to gain a general understanding of the commission and application.
For a detailed explanation of the application process, timing, requirements, documentation, fees, and the list of boards that also require approval, visit How to Open a School or College in Florida.
Visit How to Complete CIE New Institution Application for a step-by-step guide with an explanation of each of the 24 application exhibits, and tips to avoid the most common application mistakes.
All institutions require a license (or state approval) to operate granted by the Florida Commission on Independent Education. For most institutions, accreditation status is not required. Certain Florida Boards and Councils may require programmatic accreditation such as the nursing and physical therapy board. Accreditation gives institutions the ability to provide Federal Financial Aid to students for programs that qualify (not all programs are eligible for Federal Financial Aid).
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 take the time to inform themselves about the Florida Commission of Independent Education regulations before starting the application process.
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?
The Commission for Independent Education has statutory responsibilities in regard to Florida nonpublic, postsecondary, and educational institutions. This page includes the answers to commission frequently asked questions and tips on getting started with your school license. We have organized the page into four sections:
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. Make sure to also visit this list of approved accrediting agencies.
Agendas and links to watch the meeting live on YouTube will be available on the CIE Agenda page a week or so before the meeting date.
Important Note: Institutions included in the agenda are required to attend in person and be available for any questions Florida Commissioners may have.
Accreditation is not a requirement nor a prerequisite to obtaining a state license or permit to open a school.
Interested in learning more? Visit the following pages for information on relevant topics for school owners:
The Florida Commission for Independent Education (CIE) licenses private vocational schools and colleges. New institutions must apply for a provisional license to operate. The commission has statutory responsibilities in regard to Florida nonpublic, postsecondary, and educational institutions. The new institution application is available on their website, along with tutorials and instructions. Documents required with the application include financials, a student catalog, a business plan, and a projected budget. The commission will run background checks for owners and key personnel. Commission meetings are open to the public, conducted six times a year, and broadcast live on YouTube. The Commission Rules pdf document available on their site includes the requirements, procedures, and regulations that apply to the Florida licensed institutions the commission oversees.
Licensed institutions by the Florida Commission of Independent Education 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.
Institutions licensed by the Florida Commission (CIE) are recognized on a state level.
Application to State and Federal Funding
Institutions licensed by CIE may apply for state and federal funding. Each funding program has specific application requirements your institution must meet. This includes Federal Financial Aid Title IV applications, Pell Grants, SEVP I-20 International Student Visas, Veteran Funding Programs, Vocational Rehabilitation, CareerSource State Funding, and Florida Scholarship and Grant Programs.
Institutions approved by the commission are eligible to apply for regional and national accreditation, given your institution meets their application requirements.
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 and make an informed decision on what programs to include in the initial application. Schools are not allowed to make changes or add programs until the school has achieved annual license status with the Florida Commission of Independent Education.
1 - What is the Florida Commission for Independent Education?
2 - Commission Recognition: National, State, or Federal?
3 - Commission 2023 calendar and application due dates
4 - How can I access CIE’s meeting agenda and link to watch on YouTube?
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
January 26 and 27, 2023 - applications due September 1, 2022
March 30 and 31, 2023 - applications due November 1, 2022
May 25 and 26, 2023 - applications due January 1, 2023
July 2023 - applications due March 1, 2023
September 2023 - applications due May 1, 2023
November 2023 - applications due July 1, 2023
Visit the commission calendar page for meeting locations. Dates and deadlines are subject to change.
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 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 of regulation news.
Still needing assistance with your Florida school application? We are glad to help! Request a free consultation by calling 786-618-2277, emailing [email protected], or completing the free session request form. We hope the information included on this page has answered your questions about the Florida Commission for Independent Education and its licensing process.
Private higher education institutions are all required to first obtain a license to operate granted by the Florida Commission of Independent Education. 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.