Opening a
Degree-Granting Institution or University:
Getting Started

To obtain a license to operate a degree-granting institution or University in the State of California, you must submit an application for your institution to the
Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), and immediately begin pursuing accreditation by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education.

Below is a graphic designed to help you understand the flow of steps to anticipate
pertaining to the Planning, Launch, Operations and Accreditation goals
of a University.


online or distance

The BPPE allows for schools to offer instruction in different ways, such as distance education or correspondence-based learning. However, the standards for approval are constantly being raised by the BPPE, creating a shifting target for institutions seeking approval.
SchoolBuilderPlus has a proven record of achieving approval for online universities.


The BPPE institutions approved by the Bureau on or before January 1, 2015, must be accredited by July 1, 2020, achieve accreditation “candidacy or preaccreditation” by July 1, 2017, and submit an accreditation plan by July 1, 2015. Institutions not approved by the Bureau on or before January 1, 2015, must seek “provisional approval” from the Bureau with an accreditation plan for no more than two degree programs, be accredited within five years of issuance of the provisional approval, and achieve accreditation “candidacy or preaccreditation” within two years of the provisional approval. In all circumstances, institutions must notify students enrolling in these programs that the institution or program is not currently accredited. Failure to meet or comply with any of the requirements will result in an automatic suspension. The Act directs the Bureau to adopt emergency regulations and then permanent regulations through the regular rulemaking process to implement these sections of the Act added by SB 1247. The emergency regulations were filed on January 30, 2015 and became operational February 1, 2015.

Q: i want to open a degree-granting institution.
what is the bppe, and how does it affect me?

A: The Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) has oversight for all the non-exempt, private postsecondary institutions with a physical presence in California. 

The licensing process begins with an application submitted to BPPE which requires a significant amount of information including, among other items, institutional missions and objectives, statements of policies and disclosures regarding financial aid, copies of advertising, description of educational programs offered, statements regarding the institution’s ability to maintain sufficient assets and financial resources to provide education to students, a description of facilities used by students and a description of procedures an institution will use to maintain compliance with the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009. 

Q: must my school be accredited prior to applying to the bppe?

A: no, but the institution must pursue accreditation in the future.

As of 2015, all degree-granting institutions in the State of California must be accredited. This means that new school applicants must immediately begin pursuing accreditation upon receiving their approval to operate from the BPPE. If the school does not achieve accreditation within the proscribed time frame, it will be commanded to shut down.

Considering the investment you're considering making in your institution, developing a solid plan to carry your institution from the initial BPPE application through to successful accreditation is crucial. SchoolBuilderPlus can help you build this plan.

Q: Can I do the application job myself?

A: yes. But consider the following...

While the application itself is 8 pages long, the average submission packet is 250-500 pages. Further, if you strictly follow the instruction provided on the application, the Bureau will find it to be incomplete. Compiling a complete submission requires in depth understanding of the regulations themselves, as these components are not clearly defined on the application form.

Complete submission            500-sheet ream of paper

Complete submission            500-sheet ream of paper

You will have to research and understand the application requirements, including mandatory policies and disclosures, establish and document appropriate procedures, and generate all required documents from scratch, such as your catalog, enrollment agreement, student and faculty files, among others.

Meanwhile, you will be actively engaged in the myriad other tasks demanding your attention as you endeavor to open your school. It has been our experience that prospective school owners find it difficult to devote sufficient time to research and understand the requirements, and organize them into a submission that doesn't result in a lengthy Deficiency Letter or Denial from the Bureau.



The consultants at SchoolBuilderPlus do not have another business to run: when engaged with your project, our full time job is applying our experience and resources to your institution's application to make it the most thorough and accurate it can be. Therefore, unlike a prospective owner, working with a consultant minimizes errors and omissions and saves you a great deal of time and effort, thereby saving you money as well.


A: Bureau fees vary, but the Basic Initial Application for Approval to Operate is $5,000.

Additional fees may apply depending on the number of programs you offer. In addition to the application fee, you must obtain an audited financial statement from a licensed CPA to include with your application, regardless of how long your institution has (or has not) been in existence.