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3 steps to securing approval (accreditation) to implement your education program in a new state

Picture of a stamp of approval

Are you planning to start a new program that offers education services in your current state or a new one? Whether you are in teacher/principal education, healthcare, cosmetology or another sector, chances are you will need to get the approval of a state agency to do so. For some organizations, navigating state approval processes can feel like a mild inconvenience; for many others, it can be a daunting, hard-to-manage task that consumes a lot of time and organizational resources. Neither of these experiences has to be your organization’s reality. Seeking state authorization can be a more beneficial and efficient process for your organization if you incorporate the following three best practices into your approach:

Assess the environment

It goes without saying, but each state is different. Knowing those differences can go a long way to ensure you target the right states and effectively navigate their approval processes. Some critical questions to consider about a state include:

  • Business opportunity: are there people in the state interested in the programs you aim to offer? Will you be able to secure enough candidates over time to implement a sustainable program?

In addition to making good business sense, thinking about sustainability helps your organization to present a compelling case to regulatory agencies that assures them that your company is thinking long-term about the part you intend to play in educating students in the state.

  • Political and regulatory environment: are there any new laws or regulations that could change how your program operates? How might changes in political leadership reshape educational priorities in your target states?

Knowing if the laws or regulations that impact a) the learning standards your program must meet, b) the financial and operational practices your organization implements, and c) the approval and renewal processes you will need to use is important to effectively anticipating how operating in the state will shape your work.

Learn the players

Depending on the kind of organization you are (a nonprofit organization versus a college or university, for instance) and what a student receives when they complete your program(s) (e.g., a certificate of completion versus college credit), the agency you need to seek approval from may vary. In some states, your organization may need multiple approvals from different regulators (and/or accreditors), which often must be secured in a specific sequence. Knowing which agencies you need approval from, what the scope of their authorization allows your organization to do, and whether approval from another regulator is required before you can engage with an agency will save your organization time and help you build a realistic plan for approval that takes advantage of any options that can help you secure the permissions you need on the soonest schedule.

An important place to start is by looking at the State Authorization Guide for the state(s) you are interested in seeking approval on the National Council for State Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) website. This guide answers some basic questions about seeking authorization in each state and often clarifies if there is more than one agency with which an applicant organization needs to work. This page should be a first stop. Direct contact with the potential regulatory agency is still highly encouraged to ensure you have the most up-to-date information about what is required to receive permission to operate.

Know your non-negotiables

In the process of seeking a new approval in another state, you may run into state requirements that are not currently a part of the program(s) you want to have approved or how your organization operates. Having a clear vision of the distinguishing characteristics of your offering allows you to more easily determine whether the programmatic or operational adjustments that may be required fundamentally change the impact your program is intended to have or if they can be easily incorporated with little or no effect.

A few critical areas in which you must know your organization’s non-negotiables include:

  • Content

  • Length of the program

  • Staffing structure

  • Student policies and supports

  • Financial model and policies

  • Recruitment and enrollment practices

Creating and executing an approval strategy for your organization is doable with the right time commitment and expertise. Investing in expert help can enable your organization to navigate state authorization more efficiently and avoid costly missteps that impact your ability to submit high-quality proposals to regulatory agencies.

For more information about how Asher Ambrose can leverage its 10+ years of experience in certification, accreditation and state approval processes to support your organization, contact us.

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