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Frequently Asked Postsecondary Questions

How can I determine if an institution is authorized?

A prospective student can verify if an institution is authorized by the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization by contacting the Postsecondary Staff at 615-741-5293 or reviewing the list of authorized institutions on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Website.


Is there a difference between authorization and accreditation?

Yes, there is a difference. Authorization by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is mandatory, by law, for non-exempt institutions to operate in the State of Tennessee. This authorization must be renewed each year and is based on an evaluation, conducted by the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization, of minimum standards concerning quality of education, ethical business practices, health, safety, and fiscal responsibility. The Division of Postsecondary State Authorization also monitors postsecondary institutions in the State of Tennessee by conducting site visits, handling student’s complaints, and random audits of institutions.


Accreditation, however, is a non-governmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs. In most cases, authorization for one to two years is a prerequisite for accreditation. Private educational associations of regional and national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs. These criteria determine whether or not institutions or programs are operating at basic levels of quality. Accredited institutions are required to prepare and execute an in-depth self-evaluation study that measures its performance against the standards established by the accrediting agency by which the institution is accredited. Accrediting agencies closely monitor each accredited institution or program throughout the period of accreditation granted to verify that it continues to meet the standards set by the agency. Additionally, accreditation is voluntary and is not required by State law.


What is Title IV Aid?

Title IV Aid is the governmental financial aid program governed by the U.S. Department of Education (i.e., Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Work Study, and Various Loan Programs). Only institutions accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible to participate in Title IV programs.


How long has the institution been authorized?

A prospective student can obtain this information from the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization Staff.


Will my credits transfer to another institution?

Any student interested in transferring credit hours should check with the receiving institution to determine to what extent, if any, credit hours can be transferred. Whether or not credits transfer is solely up to the receiving institution.


How far in advance should I pay my tuition and fees?

Postsecondary staff recommends that no student pay tuition and fees prior to 10 days before beginning classes.


What should be done in the event that I have a complaint against an administrator, staff, or faculty of an institution authorized by the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization?

Students with complaints should follow the outlined grievance procedures in the institution’s catalog. If the complaint is not resolved at the institutional level, students may send the complaint, in writing, to Postsecondary State Authorization Staff.


What should I do to assure that I have a transcript verifying completed coursework and/or diploma or degree completion at an institution I have attended, graduated, and/or withdrawn from?

The Division of Postsecondary State Authorization staff recommends that students secure several copies of their official and unofficial transcripts upon departure, graduation, and/or withdrawal from an institution.