1. What is authorization?
Authorization is the required approval from GNPEC for an institution seeking to offer postsecondary education from within or outside Georgia to residents of this State.
2. How is authorization different from accreditation or licensure?
Accreditation is a voluntary process of validation in which educational institutions of higher learning are evaluated by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. GNPEC does not accredit institutions.
Licensure differs in that some occupations require state or national licensure for employment in the field after training has been completed. Licensure could include a certain number of hours of coursework, externship, and/or successful completion of a licensure examination. GNPEC does not grant licensure.
3. Is authorization required of institutions wishing to operate in Georgia?
Authorization is required of institutions wishing to offer instruction to residents of Georgia unless the institution qualifies for exemption under the Law.
4. How is physical presence defined in Georgia?
An institution has physical presence when it operates a campus, branch instructional facility whether leased or owned, or administrative office within the boundaries of the state. In addition, the following instances will create physical presence:
- Establish and/or maintain a telephone with a Georgia area code;
- Establish and/or maintain a postal address with a Georgia zip code;
- Market and/or recruit via media that originates in Georgia; -Maintain an Internet URL that originates in Georgia or utilizes an ISP based in Georgia;
- Employ an individual whose job is to recruit within the State of Georgia; or
- Employ faculty or individuals who are Georgia residents required to interact face-to-face with Georgia students.
Additionally, please note that any online enrollment of a Georgia resident requires GNPEC Authorization or SARA membership.
5. What is the cost of applying for authorization?
The cost varies depending on the type of institution you wish to operate. Please see the Schedule of Fees for reference.
6. What is involved in the authorization process?
The authorization process involves an application evaluation process and the remittance of fees and bonding. Please read the General Institutional Procedures for Initial Authorization or General Institutional Procedures for Renewal of Authorization for a more detailed outline regarding the process and its components.
7. Is there a program evaluation process?
It is possible that the program offerings for which you are applying will be subject to an evaluation process conducted by an empaneled third-party evaluator. Your institution’s assigned Regulatory Specialist will instruct and guide you through the process, if applicable.
8. What is the process for adding or modifying a program?
An authorized institution may apply to offer new programs via the New Program Application at any time throughout the year. The program Evaluation Fee will be required.
Before modifying a previously approved program by submitting a Program Change Application, institutions should inquire about program modifications by emailing the institution’s Regulatory Specialist (RS) with the following information: name of the institution (and specific campus, if applicable), name of the authorized program, and the details of the proposed changes. Your institution’s RS will determine whether the requested program modification is deemed to be substantive or nonsubstantive. If the change being made to the program is the addition of an online delivery modality, the change is considered substantive, and a Program Evaluation fee will be required. For GNPEC purposes, substantive/significant is quantified as at least 25% program change.
If the RS determines that the nature of the modifications requested is substantive, a Program Change Application and Program Evaluation Fee must be submitted. Please note that GNPEC reserves the right to have the program independently evaluated before program approval will be granted. See the Schedule of Fees for the fee break down.
If the RS deems the modifications to be non-substantive, meaning that the requested changes are quantifiably less than 25%, no fee is required; however, your RS will notify you that you must update the non-substantive program changes using a Program Change Application.
Any institution that is not institutionally accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education may not offer any graduate-level degree in Georgia (including but not limited to master’s degrees and doctorate degrees).
9. What do I have permission to do prior to receiving authorization from GNPEC?
An institution may not advertise, enroll, seek to enroll, or offer any instruction to students until authorization has been granted by GNPEC.
10. How do I begin the authorization application process?
Please review Institutional Proposal for Authorization for instructions on how to begin the application process by selecting the title above.
11. What is the process for completing a Change of Ownership?
GNPEC requires that any change of an owner (as defined in the Glossary), regardless of level in the ownership hierarchy, adhere to the following required process for notifying the agency of the change and filing the required documentation to officially change the authorization status to the new owner.
In the event of an ownership change, the following steps must be taken:
- In accordance with O.C.G.A.§20-3-250.8(f), the new owner must, within ten (10) business days of the change of ownership, notify GNPEC using the GNPEC Change of Ownership Form (select the title of this specific FAQ to access the form). The new owner may also apply prior to the closing date.
- Subsequently, in accordance with O.C.G.A.§20-3-250.8(f) the new owner must submit a complete Renewal of Authorization Application (including fees) within thirty (30) calendar days of the change of ownership. It is permissible to submit the Renewal of Authorization application in EDvera simultaneously with to the Regulatory Specialist.
- Changes (to the institution’s policies, administrative structure, program offerings, etc.) will NOT be permitted during the Change of Institution Ownership process. The new owner may elect to make changes only after the authorization application has been approved.
- A $500.00 Change of Ownership Fee is required to be submitted along with the Renewal of Authorization Application. Please Note: If the new owner notifies GNPEC of the change more than ten (10) days after the date of the official change of ownership, the new owner will be required to initiate an Initial Authorization Application and a $1000 Change of Ownership fee.
- If the new owner applies for Renewal of Authorization prior to the thirty (30) day deadline from the date of the official change of ownership, the RS will do the following: -Receive and evaluate the required application materials. -Conduct a site visit to the institution (if applicable), considering any changes that the new owner may propose to implement within the year forthcoming though not to be made during the change of ownership process. -Please Note: If the new owner applies for authorization after the thirty (30) day deadline from the date of the official change of ownership, the institution will be required to submit an Initial Authorization Application and a $1000 Change of Ownership fee.
- If the RS approves the renewal authorization of the institution under new ownership, the new owner is required to submit a full year’s Annual Authorization fee (calculated based on the data from the last completed fiscal year of the previous ownership) and provide a bond for five (5) years. The authorization dates will run parallel with the annual bond. The Certificate of Authorization will be granted for a maximum of one year.
- If the previous owner has already paid into the Tuition Guaranty Trust Fund for five (5) years, the new owner will assume the benefits derived thereafter. If the previous owner has already paid into the Tuition Guaranty Trust Fund, but for a period of less than five years, the new owner will still assume the benefits of the previous owner’s payments, but will be required to pay into the Tuition Guaranty Trust Fund, on an annual basis, the remaining unpaid payments until all payments for the original five-year period have been made.
- The new owner should use data from the last completed fiscal year to complete the GNPEC Financial Statement, required as part of the Renewal of Authorization Application. These figures will also be used to calculate bond and fee amounts.
- NOTE- Transcripts and certificates/diplomas associated with former students enrolled under the previous ownership (i.e. graduates and withdrawals) should be surrendered to NPEC within 30 days of the change of ownership.
12. What is the process for changing the institution name and/or physical campus location?
1. An authorized institution must send a letter to GNPEC addressed to its Regulatory Specialist on institution letterhead with the following information:
- Current name and physical campus location of institution
- Requested name or physical campus location of institution
- Contact information of requestor
- NOTE- Change of Location Fee is only applicable to a change in the physical campus address, not mailing address
2. The payment of fees should be included with the letter:
- Change of School Name- $100 check or money order made payable to GNPEC
- Change of School Location- $100 check or money order made payable to GNPEC
3. The Regulatory Specialist will provide correspondence outlining the decision made.
- Conflicting name changes
- i. An institution will not be permitted to change its name to the same name of another authorized institution’s name.
- If an institution wants to change its name to one very similar to that of another authorized institution in the State, GNPEC will strongly discourage its use and will notify the existing school that such an institution name is forming.
- If the name change request is accepted, GNPEC will update its records to reflect the change.
13. How do I apply for approval of an institutional scholarship or grant?
An institution must seek prior approval by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission (GNPEC) for any institutional scholarship or grant offered to students. GNPEC defines scholarships and grants as funds provided to students that do not have to be repaid. GNPEC requires that both scholarships and grants have conditions attached that must be met in order for the funds to be continued term to term or year to year for a student. The following guidelines apply to scholarships and grants for GNPEC authorized schools:
- Criteria must be expressed and adhered to.
- Scholarships/grants cannot be used as a means to artificially reduce tuition for one group of students based (usually) on when they attend; for example, it is not permissible to reduce tuition for students who enroll in the May-semester in order to bolster enrollment.
- Scholarships/grants cannot come from funding that would raise the tuition for other students.
- Scholarship/grant income and expenses must be documented as line items on the institution’s Financial Statement.
- Scholarship/grant funds must be documented in the recipient’s financial records. Institutions must be approved to offer student scholarships and grants according to the instructions below:
- For unaccredited institutions, a Scholarship Application Form must be completed and submitted to the institution’s Regulatory Specialist (RS). The form, which is accessible by selecting the title of this specific FAQ, must be completed for each scholarship/grant an institution seeks to offer. The RS will review the document and respond accordingly.
- For accredited institutions, a description of the scholarship intended to be offered at a Georgia-authorized campus and its basis for award must be provided to the institution’s RS. The RS will review the description and respond accordingly.
14. What is the process for closing an Authorized institution?
- In the event of a planned institutional closure, please notify your institution’s Regulatory Specialist (RS) and submit the as soon as the determination to close has been made.
- Per the Records Agreement to which the institution contact person attests annually within the Renewal of Authorization Application, it is the responsibility of the institution to surrender student records to GNPEC at the time of closure or as soon thereafter as possible.
- Each student record must include a student transcript; if applicable, a copy of the certificate or diploma awarded; a copy of student financial ledger; and any other document required by the Commission.
- You will need to surrender the student records to GNPEC. It is preferable that records be provided electronically, but if not possible, a maximum of 30 boxes can be received at the GNPEC office. Any larger quantity must be delivered directly to the State Records Center.
Failure to comply with the above processes may minimally result in fines and notification of such failure to any other state agency involved.
15. What is the policy regarding inactive programs and institutions?
OCGA § 20-3-250.2 (26) provides a definition of operation of an educational institution as “to establish, keep, or maintain any facility or location in this state where, from which, or through which education is offered or given or educational credentials are offered or granted”. Operation, in the context of the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission (GNPEC), is interpreted to indicate that inactive programs cannot fall under GNPEC oversight because they are not actively being offered and thus have no credentials granted. This emphasis on operation is also a component of the key objective of GNPEC, institutional authorization. According to OCGA § 20-3-250.2 (3) ““Authorization to operate,” or like term, means authorization by the commission to operate or to contract to operate a nonpublic postsecondary educational institution in this state or to conduct nonpublic postsecondary activities”.
- For unaccredited institutions, GNPEC has defined an inactive program to be an authorized program that has not had any enrolled student for at least two (2) years.
- If the institution wishes to seek program approval in the future, a New Program Fee (please see the Schedule of Fees) and New Program Application will be required.
- Accredited institutions should notify GNPEC if they have stopped offering any programs so that they may be inactivated in EDvera.
Inactive Authorized Institutions
- GNPEC has defined an inactive institution to be any authorized institution that has not enrolled students in any approved program for at least two (2) years. This includes institutions with multiple programs that have had no enrollment in any program for at least two (2) years as well as single program institutions. Such institutions are no longer eligible for GNPEC Authorization. In this situation at the time of Renewal, the institution will be notified of the need to cease operations and surrender student records.
16. Who at my institution requires a Personnel Data Inventory form or Agent Permit Application be submitted on his/her behalf?
Accredited Institutions Unaccredited Institutions Agents Any individual whose primary role is to recruit Georgia residents. No personnel form is also required. Any individual whose primary role is to recruit Georgia residents.
No personnel form is also required.
All department heads (ex. deans/ division chairs, administrative directors/ supervisors) and Edvera access contacts.
All faculty and staff, including Edvera access contacts.
17. What is the GNPEC policy regarding the late submission of a Renewal of Authorization application?
A 25% late fee is assessed to both the Annual Authorization and TGTF (if applicable) fees for failure to submit a complete renewal application, including all fees, 60 days prior to the expiration date on the Certificate of Authorization (the institution’s due date for application).
Additionally, automatic revocation of authorization will result if the renewal application is submitted after the institution’s expiration date. Should the institution seek to regain authorization, it must apply as a new institution (Initial Authorization Application) including being subject to all appropriate fees and bonding.