Higher Education Coordinating Council

[Skip Navigation]

Commission for Independent Education

What is the purpose of the commission?

The Commission for Independent Education (CIE) is responsible for regulating the independent postsecondary educational institutions under its jurisdiction. It operates to provide consumer protection, degree and diploma program approval, program improvement, and licensure for such institutions. Independent postsecondary institutions may seek CIE licensure via two processes, annual licensure, or through licensure by means of accreditation. The commission serves as the central agency for the collection and distribution of current information regarding the institutions under its jurisdiction. Each year the commission publishes a detailed annual report on activities including updated information on the institutions under its purview.

What types of institutions are licensed by the commission?

The commission licenses private postsecondary institutions offering a wide range of both degree and non-degree programs. Programs include both academic and career education (vocational) programs. During Fiscal Year 2008-09, the commission licensed 893 institutions of which 38% were degree granting institutions and 62% offered only non-degree programs. Ninety percent of degree-granting institutions were accredited by one or more regional or national accrediting agencies. Twenty-five percent of non-degree institutions were accredited by one or more regional or national accrediting agencies.

What types of institutions are exempt from licensure?

The CIE licenses all independent postsecondary institutions operating in Florida except for those that are not under the jurisdiction of the commission as indicated in s. 1005.06, Florida Statutes. Examples of institutions that are not under the commission’s jurisdiction include those institutions that are eligible to participate in the Florida Resident Access Grant, are nonprofit independent colleges or universities located and chartered in Florida, and are accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to grant baccalaureate degrees. Other examples of institutions that are not under the commission’s jurisdiction include those institutions that offer only a vocational, continuing education, or professional development program. A religious college may operate without licensure if the college annually verifies that the institution offers only educational programs that prepare students for religious vocations as ministers or laypersons in specified occupations.

How does the commission regulate education?

The commission grants provisional licensure, annual licensure, and licensure by means of accreditation after review by the Office of the Executive Director. The commission and its staff also reviews and approves applications by institutions seeking to add a new program or modify an approved program. During Fiscal Year 2008-09, commission staff conducted 512 on-site visits to schools, colleges, and universities under the commission’s jurisdiction. The commission also investigates complaints about institutions under its authority. During the 2008-09 fiscal year, 245 complaints were received in the commission’s office. Any allegations reviewed by the commission are referred to the Consumer and Compliance Services Section in order to determine if there has been a violation of commission rules or Florida law. During Fiscal Year 2008-09, the commission sent 49 Cease and Desist letters to entities that appeared to be operating a school or college in Florida without a license.

How many students attend and graduate from institutions licensed by the commission?

During Fiscal Year 2008-09, the total enrollment for degree granting institutions was 236,617 with 46,457 reported graduates. The Fiscal Year 2008-09 enrollment for non-degree institutions was 76,795 with 48,861 reported graduates. Of these graduates, 83% (40,772) were placed in jobs, joined the military or are continuing their education at an institution of higher learning.

Other performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

How does the commission collaborate with public postsecondary education?

The commission works with the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) to track the placement of its graduates. In Fiscal Year 2008-09, 108 CIE institutions participated in the data collection effort. By October 2009 the placement outcomes of these graduates will be made available to participating institutions. Commission staff supplies institutional data to the Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students (FACTS) for inclusion in that system and works with the department to update the common set of Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes that are used by Florida public and nonpublic postsecondary education sectors to classify education programs. Although some CIE institutions participate in the Statewide Course Numbering System (SCNS), the numbers of participating institutions remains low.

How is the commission funded?

The commission receives no general revenue. Funds are generated from fees collected from licensed institutions and deposited into the Institutional Assessment Trust Fund. Approximately $3 million in various fees was received by the commission during Fiscal Year 2008-09. The commission expended $2.5 million from that fund in Fiscal Year 2008-09.

Current issues

Transfer College Credit. The Statewide Course Numbering System (SCNS) was developed to facilitate the transfer of credit for academic courses between the state’s public community colleges and universities. The system was later expanded to allow non-public colleges and universities to participate in the transfer system. Despite this development, only a small number of institutions licensed by the CIE have elected to participate in the system. Several reasons for this omission exist, and are addressed in OPPAGA reports (Report No. 07-22 and Report No. 07-49). Many non-public institutions licensed by the CIE do not list all of their courses in the SCNS because they know that the courses are not guaranteed to transfer to other institutions and need not be in the system. For example, courses that are not offered by other institutions are not guaranteed to transfer even if they are included in the SCNS. Many non-public institutions however, are not aware of the benefits of listing their academic courses. Most of these institutions are not accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and a primary benefit of the SCNS is to allow students to transfer credits into state institutions that are accredited by SACS. Commission staff is working with their institutions to increase participation in the course numbering system.

Licensure by Means of Accreditation. In 2008, the federal district court found unconstitutional s. 1005.32(1)(e), Florida Statutes, that requires independent postsecondary institutions seeking licensure by means of accreditation to be incorporated in Florida. The court ruled that such a requirement was a restraint of free trade. A bill to delete the unconstitutional requirements in statute was filed but not enacted by the 2009 Florida Legislature. The proposed legislation also included a provision that each licensed institution be required to provide the CIE with any site visit reports prepared by its accrediting agency for visits made to the institution’s Florida locations. Without access to these reports, commission staff is concerned that they will be unable to determine if the institutions in question meet accreditation standards that correlate with licensure standards established by the commission.

What are the applicable statutes?

Chapter 1005, Florida Statutes.


State Univeristy System Board of Governors Florida Senate Florida House Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida Commission for Independent Education Florida Department of Education Florida College System