Steps to Licensure
Operating a post-secondary educational institution in the District of Columbia requires a license issued from the Higher Education Licensure Commission (“HELC”, or the “Commission”). The licensure process has several steps and requires a thorough assessment of an institution to ensure quality education, sound business practices and compliance with set laws and regulations.
STEP 1: Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations
Before starting, thoroughly read the HELC laws and regulations governing post-secondary institutions and the instructions for completing the application.
STEP 2: Register for and attend New Applicant Workshop
Prior to submitting an application for licensure, at least one representative of the post-secondary institution is required to attend the New Applicant Workshop. During the two-hour workshop attendees will learn about the role of the HELC, application filing process, and renewal requirements. In addition, the regulations governing licensing institutions in the District of Columbia will be discussed. Registration is required.
Licensure applications, guidelines, instructions and workshop meeting dates are available on OSSE's website.
STEP 3: Submit a request for name approval
If the institution’s proposed name includes any of the words prohibited by District law, the institution may submit a Request for Name Approval and Institution Name Good Cause Waiver after attending the New Applicant Workshop, but prior to submitting a full provisional licensure application.
If the name is approved, a new applicant may not begin advertising of any kind until the Commission has granted a license after the approval of the Application for Provisional Licensure.
STEP 4: Submit a complete application and required fees
Submit a complete Application for Provisional Licensure [DOC] as outlined in the Application Submission Guidelines by responding to all of the required questions, completing all of the required forms, and remitting the corresponding non-refundable fee. Use the checklist on pages 4-5 to ensure all content has been included.
STEP 5: Complete a site visit
All institutions with a physical location in Washington, DC must complete a satisfactory site visit as part of the application process. After a complete review of the application, HELC staff will contact you to schedule a site visit of the proposed facility. Review the site visit checklist [PDF] to ensure compliance with physical location standards.
STEP 6: Appear before the Commission
The HELC meets regularly to review processed applications. HELC staff will notify the designated point of contact of the date, time and location of the meeting where the institution’s application will be considered. A full listing of the HELC meetings is available on OSSE's website.
Note: An applicant cannot begin operating or advertising until the Commission has approved (affirmatively voted on) the Application for Provisional Licensure. Filing an application does not grant authority to offer instruction or to start advertising. Operating without a license is illegal in Washington, DC.
Related Content: Higher Education Licensure Commission (HELC) Applications