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How do you start your own college?


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Answered 2008-03-05 02:16:26

First and foremost, you are posting in an entrepreneur section, which is the right place because this is an incredible challenge that will test your entrepreneurial ability to survive. The greatest challenge is surviving in a highly regulated business environment with rules by which other businesses are not constrained. You will also need sufficient funding, or funding guarantees, which is an entirely separate topic beyond this scope. That said, the mechanics are as follows:

You will first need to obtain a license from the board of education in the state of operation. The official regulatory body is usually a commission for private colleges and schools under the state board of education. Applications can be obtained from each state's commission.

The license process is comprehensive for a reason - to protect students. Generally the license requires that you demonstrate viability from an academic, infrastructure and financial standpoint. Therefore, the license application will require information on academics (curriculum, faculty, etc.), infrastructure (facilities, staff), finances (sufficient financial resources, budgets and financial plans), institutional planning, etc.

Once the license is approved that is just the beginning. You would open under some provisional approval. You must have sufficient resources and plans for marketing (who will attend your school and why, and how do you let them know you are there?), admissions (how do you help a student determine if you are the right fit for them?), financial assistance (how can students pay? more on that below), staff to process this all, a campus management computer system to track it all, faculty to teach the students, classrooms, computer labs, a library, student services, operations and maintenance, a financial management system, etc.

How can students pay?

This is one of the most critical points for a new institution. It will take about 5 years to pass all the regulatory hurdles to obtain federal financial aid approval, which provides reasonable access to grants and loans and allows students to pay for the education at your college. In the meantime, you must obtain approvals from one of only several private loan companies so that your students can finance their education. These private loans are credit-based, and therefore it is very difficult to receive loan approvals. Families often need co-signers on the loan and you need a very strong financial services person to help them find a way to pay. They may have few other options unless they can pay cash and you will need a scholarship program to help them pay.

What is really critical is that you maintain sufficient "financial stability" criteria each year (through student enrollment, or revenue growth, and expense management) that you continue to receive license renewals each year - again this is the state's function to protect the students.

What you strive for in addition to financial stability is sufficient institutional quality planning and process implementation that proves your worthiness for a grant of accreditation, which is another step in the regulatory compliance process.

Once accredited, you must pass more intense financial scrutiny to obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Education to participate in "Title IV" Federal Financial Aid programs. This last step is so critical to the long-term growth and success of your institution. Post a message on my board if you have further questions or need help determining if this path is for you!

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