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Frequently Asked Questions for Students

1. What is the role of the Higher Education Licensure Commission?

The Higher Education Licensure Commission ("HELC" or “Commission”) is a regulatory, consumer protection body that is responsible for public protection with regard to legitimate, quality postsecondary education in the District of Columbia. The Commission establishes standards for postsecondary educational operations, authorizes operations, approves programs, issues or denies licenses to, and oversees, all private postsecondary educational institutions in the District of Columbia.  Additionally, the Commission regulates and enforces postsecondary laws and regulations, maintains the student records of institutions which close and have no other repository, issues certified transcripts, and investigates student and faculty complaints against educational institutions under its jurisdiction. [top]

2. What is a postsecondary institution?

In the District, a postsecondary institution is any entity offering a class, a course, or a program of instruction or study at a level beyond high school.  A postsecondary institution will generally issue degrees, certificates, or diplomas as evidence of successful completion of a program of study. [top]

3. What is the difference between postsecondary licensure and accreditation?

Licensure by the Higher Education Licensure Commission is mandatory for postsecondary institutions to operate in the District of Columbia, unless the institution is otherwise exempt. To obtain licensure and lawfully operate, postsecondary institutions must first meet certain standards of operation established by law. The HELC monitors the licensed schools by conducting site visits and random audits of the institutions, and by investigating student complaints.

Accreditation is a non-governmental and voluntary peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs. Private educational associations of regional and national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the basic qualities of a sound educational program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions. Accredited institutions prepare in-depth self-evaluations to measure its performance against the standards established by its accrediting body. Accrediting agencies closely monitor each accredited institution to verify that the institution continues to meet the standards set. The HELC accepts only those accrediting bodies that have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

To see a list of accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education select here. [top]

4. Which postsecondary institutions are approved (licensed) to operate in DC?

A list of currently approved institutions can be found here. [top]

5. Will my credits transfer to another institution?

Any student interested in transferring credit hours should check with the receiving institution to determine to what extent, if any, credit hours can be transferred. The receiving institution has sole discretion as to whether or not credits transfer. Prior to enrollment, students are encouraged to determine whether their educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution. [top]

6. How do I obtain my student records/transcript from a closed institution?

Transcripts are certified copies of the records as they appeared in the Office of the Registrar upon the school’s closing. Individuals can request copies of their transcripts from the HELC by submitting a completed Transcript Request Form, found here. Official copies, which bear the seal of the Commission, must be mailed directly to the institutions. Transcripts that are issued directly to students are considered unofficial copies. Please allow 30 days for the processing of transcript requests. To see a list of student records maintained by the HELC select here. [top]

7. How do I file a complaint against a postsecondary institution?

Persons who have experienced legal or ethical problems with a postsecondary educational institution should first exhaust the institution’s internal complaint process. If not satisfied with the outcome, a complaint may be submitted to the HELC by clicking here. Complainants will be asked to provide contact information for themselves and the institution, dates of attendance, a full description of the problem, relevant documents to support the complaint and the desired outcome. Complaints are made available to the institution/alleged violator so that they may file a response to the allegations. Investigation and resolution of complaints take varying amounts of time. Please note: The HELC cannot respond to anonymous complaints [top]

8. What happens if my school closes?

If your school should close without notice, please call our office and notify us of the situation as soon as possible. A licensed school may close for any number of reasons, but by regulation, a school must give the Commission a minimum of 90 days advanced notice and receive approval from the Commission prior to closing.

For additional information about specific school closures select here. [top]

9. What should I consider when choosing a field of study?

Students are encouraged to think carefully about the type of career they’d like to pursue, and the professional requirements for that career, before enrolling in a postsecondary program. For current employment projections visit the United States Department of Labor website to view the Occupational Outlook Handbook here. [top]

10. What should I consider in choosing a school?

The U.S. Department of Education has some tips for students thinking about attending postsecondary institutions. Select here to read more. [top]