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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 State Authorization staff for determination of their status.


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.

Initial Authorization or New Program Application

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 School Authorization at 615-741-5293 or sending an e-mail to 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.


Below is a current list of the Initial Authorization and New Program Application deadlines and quarterly meeting dates for the Advisory Committee on Postsecondary Education Institutions and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.


Please be aware that the attendance of a representative from your institution is mandatory at the Committee on Postsecondary Educational Institutions’ meeting at which your application is presented.

Unless otherwise posted, all Postsecondary Advisory Committee meetings will be held at 404 James Robertson Parkway Nashville TN in the 18th floor board room at 10:00 a.m. central standard time.


Deadline Date for Application

Committee Meeting

Commission Meeting

Season of Meeting


















Assistance in completing the application is available by telephoning Postsecondary staff (615-741-5293) during business hours of the Commission, 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (Central Time) Monday through Friday.

All applications are reviewed in a three tier process by the Division of Postsecondary State Authorization Staff, the Advisory Committee on Postsecondary Education Institutions, and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Final Commission authorization is required in order to conduct training, advertise, recruit and/or operate in the State of Tennessee.

Minimum Standards

In order to become authorized as a postsecondary educational institution in the state, the school must meet a variety of minimum standards including:

  • 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.

Distance Education

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.