Chapter 261B of the Iowa Code requires a postsecondary educational institution (school) that offers degree programs to register with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission (the Commission) if the school offers one or more courses of instruction in this state, including via correspondence or distance education. A school must also register with the Commission if it has a "presence" (defined in Iowa Code as an address) in this state and offers courses in other states or foreign countries.
Conditions that Require Registration / Authorization
Chapter 261B of the Iowa Code requires a postsecondary educational institution (school) that offers degree programs to register with the Commission if:
- a person the school compensates conducts any portion of a course of instruction in Iowa, including through distance education or correspondence study; or
- the school otherwise has a presence in Iowa.
Presence means an address, location, telephone number, or internet protocol address in Iowa from which a school conducts any aspects of its operations regardless of the instructional modality or whether the school enrolls Iowans in its programs.
For a distance education provider, presence also means a location in Iowa at which a student participates in a structured field experience that is a required component of the school’s otherwise distance education program.
Examples of School Activities That Require Registration / Authorization, Including Distance Education Programs
Below you will find examples of programmatic and operational activities relating to both residential and distance education programs that require a school to register with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. This is not an all-inclusive list of school activities that necessitate registration in Iowa.
- A foreign school (i.e., a school whose main campus or administrative offices are located in a state other than Iowa, or in a foreign country) seeks to establish a branch campus or other site from which it will conduct in-person instruction at a location in Iowa.
- A foreign school wishes to begin offering any portion of a residential program at a location in Iowa via direct instruction or supervision by a person(s) the school compensates, regardless of whether the instructor/supervisor is an Iowa resident.
Example: A school whose campus is located in a state that borders Iowa enrolls Iowa residents in its residential baccalaureate nursing degree program. Iowa residents attend classes at the school's physical campus located in the border state. The school requires a student to participate in a hands-on clinical experience in order to successfully complete the baccalaureate nursing degree program. The school permits an Iowa resident to participate in the clinical experience at a health care facility located in Iowa. The school compensates regular or adjunct faculty to provide instruction or supervision at the Iowa location during the clinical experience.
- An Iowa-based school experiences a change in ownership due to purchase by a foreign corporation or other foreign entity.
- A school wishes to establish administrative offices at a site in Iowa, regardless of whether it offers Iowans postsecondary educational courses or programs via classroom instruction or distance education.
- A school compensates an Iowa resident or other entity located in Iowa specifically for the purpose of recruiting Iowans to attend the school's residential programs that are offered on a campus that is located outside the state of Iowa.
Note: This does not include an out-of-state school that sends a representative who is not based in Iowa to the State on an occasional, short-term basis to recruit students for residential programs that the school offers at a campus that is not located in Iowa. Other requirements may apply to athlete agents (see the Iowa Secretary of State's website).
- A school maintains a postal address or telephone/fax area code that originates in Iowa.
- Any of a school's distance education programs include a component, which is required for program completion, that the school permits an Iowa to complete at a location in Iowa; for example, a clinical, practicum, internship, externship or lab.
- A school compensates any individual or entity to educate Iowans about its distance education programs or recruit students for these programs at a location in Iowa, regardless of whether the individual or entity is based in Iowa.
- A school houses the technological equipment (e.g., servers) the school uses to facilitate delivery of its distance education programs at a location in Iowa.
- An entity located in Iowa, and that is owned by the same parent company as the school, promotes the school's distance education programs by providing information to others about the school and its programs.
- A school compensates an Iowa resident to provide remote instruction in the school's distance education courses remotely from the instructor's Iowa home or other Iowa location, regardless of whether Iowa residents are enrolled in the instructor's course(s).
- A school compensates an Iowa resident to remotely conduct administrative activities in support of its distance education programs from the Iowa resident's home or other Iowa location, (e.g., compensating an Iowa resident to work remotely as a call-taker, enrollment or financial aid advisor, or scheduler).
The Registration Application Process
A school that must register with the Commission must complete an application supplied by the Commission. The registration application process is a desk audit. Completed applications must be provided to the Commission’s postsecondary registration administrator in both paper and electronic format. Paper format is required for the Commission’s review of the application; electronic format is required pursuant to Iowa Code, which requires the Commission to post the school's application on its web site. Registration applicants must be referred to the Commission’s board of Commissioners for a registration decision within 180 days of the receipt of an application.
The registration term is 2 years. A fee of $2,000 is assessed at the time a school is approved for registration in Iowa for the 2-year registration term. There is no separate application fee at this time.
Postsecondary Educational Programs Offered Under a School's Registration
A registration applicant must provide a listing of all programs that the applicants wishes to offer in Iowa through, as applicable, classroom instruction and/or distance education, and the institutional charges associated with each program. While the Commission does not "approve" or "accredit" specific programs, Commission staff review all programs and curriculum for Iowa-specific implications. For example, Iowa Code and Administrative Code set standards for certain programs that prepare students for licensure in specific professions.
A school that seeks registration in Iowa is strongly encouraged to review the Iowa Workforce Development online listing of Iowa's state-licensed occupations, and any applicable Iowa Code or Administrative Code requirements for educational programs that prepare students for licensure in that occupation. Questions about such requirements should be directed to the appropriate Iowa licensure board or authority. The Iowa Workforce Development website provides contact information for the appropriate licensing board or authority.
The Commission reserves the right to deny a registration applicant permission to offer a specific program in Iowa that prepares students for employment in an occupation if the Commission believes that the school's program inadequately prepares the student to obtain the Iowa license required for employment in that occupation in Iowa.
Registration applicants are strongly encouraged to review their catalog materials before submitting a registration application to ensure that the description of programs associated with professions that commonly require a state-issued license or certification (e.g., teacher, school administrator, psychologist, professional counselor, or law enforcement officer) clearly state whether the program prepares the student for a mandatory license or certification. Commission staff may require such clarifications of a school during the registration application review process.
Educator Preparation and Nursing Programs
A registration applicant that wishes to offer what Iowa Code terms a "practitioner preparation program", (i.e., a program that prepares a student for licensed employment in Iowa as a teacher, early childhood educator, school administrator, school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, or speech pathologist/audiologist) must first apply to the Iowa Department of Education for approval of that program before the Commission will permit the school to offer the program under its Iowa registration.
A school that applies for registration in Iowa to offer distance education programs must also apply to the Iowa Department of Education for approval of all practitioner preparation programs the school wishes to offer in Iowa via distance education. The Iowa Board of Education's approval of a distance education provider who wishes to offer practitioner preparation programs in Iowa via distance education does not qualify a student who completes such a program for initial licensure in Iowa. The student must first obtain a license from the state in which the distance education provider is located, and may then apply to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners for an Iowa license.
If approval from the Iowa Board of Education for a school's practitioner preparation program is pending, or the school cannot secure such approval, the Commission may register the school to offer other programs that do not require the Iowa Board of Education's approval.
A school with questions about the approval of practitioner preparation programs or that wishes to apply for approval of such programs should contact:
Iowa Department of Education
Bureau of Accreditation and School Improvement
400 East 14th Street
Grimes Building - 3rd Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319
A registration applicant that wishes to offer a nursing-related program in Iowa (whether at a site in Iowa or via distance education) must first contact the Iowa Board of Nursing. The Commission relies on the Iowa Board of Nursing to determine whether a school must seek the Board's approval for a nursing program that the school wishes to offer in Iowa. If the Iowa Board of Nursing requires the school to seek its approval, the school must first obtain that approval before the Commission will permit the school to offer the nursing program under its Iowa registration.
At this time, the Iowa Board of Nursing does not require an out-of-state school that offers programs for licensed nurses via distance education to seek its approval, but the school must contact the Board of Nursing and follow its instructions regarding the operation of the online nursing-related programs in Iowa.
A school should contact:
Iowa Board of Nursing
Iowa Department of Public Health
400 SE 8th Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
Full-Time Iowa Resident Faculty Member or Program Coordinator: Iowa Administrative Code requires a registered school to employ at least one full-time Iowa-resident faculty member or program coordinator that is devoted to Iowa students. The Commission may, at its discretion and on a case-by-case basis, consider waiving this Administrative Code requirement in cases when a school wishes to offer programs in Iowa via distance education or another nontraditional delivery format.
Faculty Education and Experience: Iowa Code Section 261.2 and Iowa's Administrative Code require the Commission to ensure that faculty have education and experience that qualify them for their assignments. Therefore, a registration applicant should expect to submit either of the following relative to, as applicable, all full-time, Iowa-based faculty that provide classroom instruction, and all Iowa-based regular or adjunct faculty that provide instruction in the school's distance education programs:
- A resume or summary of education and professional experience that provides, at minimum, the highest educational credential achieved and a history of professional experience that is pertinent to the faculty member's instructional assignment, or
- A copy of the school's official policies for hiring faculty that describe the minimum education and experience qualifications for teaching assignments.
- A school must file evidence of financial responsibility with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission under Iowa Code Section 714.18 or demonstrate qualification for an exemption under Iowa Code Section 714.19.
- A for-profit school that has a program of more than 4 months in length that leads to a postsecondary degree, diploma, or license must implement a tuition refund policy that meets the requirements of Iowa Code Section 714.23. A school is strongly encouraged to consult with Commission staff during development of the policy, and the school must submit that policy to Commission staff for review and comment no later than during the registration application review period.
- Provisions of Sections 261B.3, 261B.3A, subsections 1 and 2, and 261B.4.
- Provisions of Section 261B.7
- Provisions of Section 261B.9
- State regulations found in Iowa Administrative Code (283.21.2). Note: Iowa Administrative Code includes a requirement for a registered school to adopt policies that meet the requirements of Iowa Code Section 261.9(1)"e" to "h." The details of Iowa Code Section 261.9(1)"e" to "g" are not included in the registration provisions of Iowa Administrative Code or on the registration application. They are provided below as a reference for a registration applicant.
- Section 261.9(1)"e"
...[Adopt] a policy that prohibits unlawful possession, use, or distribution of controlled substances by students and employees on property owned or leased by the institution or in conjunction with activities sponsored by the institution. Each institution shall provide information about the policy to all students and employees. The policy shall include a clear statement of sanctions for violation of the policy and information about available drug or alcohol counseling and rehabilitation programs. In carrying out this policy, an institution shall provide substance abuse prevention programs for students and employees.
- Section 261.9(1)"f" ...[Develop and implement] a written policy, which is disseminated during student registration or orientation, addressing the following four areas relating to sexual abuse:
(2) Campus security
(3) Education, including prevention, protection, and the rights and duties of students and employees of the institution.
(4) Facilitating the accurate and prompt reporting of sexual abuse to the duly constituted law enforcement authorities.
- Section 261.9(1)"g" ... [Adopt] a policy to offer not less than the following options to a student who is a member, or the spouse of a member if the member has a dependent child, of the Iowa national guard or reserve forces of the United States and who is ordered to state military service or federal service or duty:
i. Withdraw from the student's entire registration and receive a full refund of tuition and mandatory fees.
ii. Make arrangements with the student's instructors for course grades, or for incompletes that shall be completed by the student at a later date. If such arrangements are made, the student's registration shall remain intact and tuition and mandatory fees shall be assessed for the courses in full.
iii. Make arrangements with only some of the student's instructors for grades, or for incompletes that shall be completed by the student at a later date. If such arrangements are made, the registration for those courses shall remain intact and tuition and mandatory fees shall be assessed for those courses. Any course for which arrangements cannot be made for grades or incompletes shall be considered dropped and the tuition and mandatory fees for the course refunded.
- Section 261.9(1)"h" Develop and implement a consistent written policy for an employee who in the scope of the person's employment responsibilities examines, attends, counsels or treats a child to report suspected physical or sexual abuse. The policy shaII include an employee's reporting responsibilities. The reporting responsibilities shall designate the time, circumstances, and method for reporting suspected child abuse to the accredited private institution's administration and reporting to law enforcement. Nothing in the policy shall prohibit an employee from reporting suspected child abuse in good faith to Iaw enforcement.
A school that is a participant in the federal student aid programs may already have policies in place that meet the requirements of Iowa Code Section 261.9(1)"e" and "f" (i.e., a drug/alcohol abuse prevention policy, and a sexual abuse prevention policy.) A school must submit to Commission staff, either with its application or during the application review process, policies that it is prepared to implement upon registration that meet the requirements of Iowa Code Section 261.9(1)"e" through "h". A school that declines to implement any one of these policies will not be permitted to operate in Iowa.
Schools that are exempted from registration in Iowa are listed in Iowa Code Section 261B.11. With two exceptions, the exemptions listed in this section of Iowa Code apply only to schools that originate in Iowa. Registration exemptions that may apply to an out-of-state school or other out-of-state entity are as follows:
- Section 261B.11, subsection 8 - Schools and educational programs conducted by religious organizations solely for the religious instruction of leadership practitioners of that religious organization. This exemption requires a school to substantiate that it restricts its enrollment to persons who are, or who aspire to be, leadership practitioners of the specific, bona fide, recognized religious organization with which the school is affiliated. Iowa Code does not recognize the federal exemption for a religiously-affiliated institution in 34 CFR 600.9.
- Section 261B.11, subsection 11 - Postsecondary educational institutions offering programs limited to non-degree (e.g., certificate or diploma) specialty vocational training programs.
A school that wises to operate at an Iowa location and believe it qualifies for an exemption from registration under Iowa Code Section 261B.11 must complete an application. Exemption applications are evaluated by the Commission's postsecondary registration administrator to determine the claimant's qualifications for the exemption. The postsecondary registration administrator makes a recommendation concerning the outcome of the school's exemption application to the agency Board of Commissioners, who have ultimate authority to approve or deny registration exemption requests.
A school that exclusively offers distance education programs to Iowa residents must contact the postsecondary registration administrator for evaluation of the school's distance education programs and operational activities. If the Commission's postsecondary registration administrator determines that a distance education provider's programs and operations meet none of the conditions for registration of distance education program providers under Iowa Code Sections 261B.2 and 261.3, the school will receive a written communication stating that, at this time, the school is not required to register in Iowa (i.e., seek explicit authorization) in order to offer its distance education program to Iowa residents. Currently, the Commission does not accept registration exemption applications from schools that exclusively offer distance education programs to Iowa residents. However, a distance education program provider that is not required must comply with the independent requirements of Iowa Code Chapter 714 as follows:
- The school must file evidence of financial responsibility under Iowa Code Section 714.18 or demonstrate qualification for an exemption under Iowa Code Section 714.19; and
- For a for-profit school with at least one program of more than 4-months in length that leads to a degree, diploma, or license, the school must adopt an Iowa tuition refund policy for Iowa residents who withdraw that meets the donditions of Iowa Code Section 714.23.
List of Registered Schools
Schools that are currently registered in Iowa and schools that have applied for registration in Iowa.