What does the Division of Private Occupational Schools do?
The Division of Private Occupational Schools (“DPOS”) is a state agency within the Colorado Department of Higher Education that is statutorily charged under the Private Occupational Education Act of 1981, with overseeing postsecondary private occupational schools and its delivery of occupational education. The mission of the DPOS and Private Occupational Schools Board (“Board”) is to provide standards for and to foster and improve private occupational schools and their educational services, and to protect the citizens of this state from fraudulent and substandard private occupational schools.
What is a private occupational school?
A private occupational school is any entity (individual, business, institution or organization) or sometimes referred to as a “proprietary school” that charges tuition for postsecondary education and training, which offers educational services or credentials that constitute occupational education in this state and which are not specifically exempt.
What is “Occupational Education”?
Any education or training designed to facilitate the vocational, technical or occupational development of individual persons which is conducted as part of a program of training, instruction or study designed to fit individuals for gainful employment as semiskilled or skilled workers or technicians in recognized occupations requiring less than a four-year baccalaureate degree.
What types of schools does DPOS regulate?
The DPOS through the Private Occupational School Board provides regulatory oversight to over 300 private occupational schools in Colorado and 40 out-of-state schools that delivers education or training in a variety of occupational areas such as cosmetology, real estate, IT/business, massage therapy, trucking, automotive, bartending and allied healthcare professions. For a list of approved in-state and out-of-state private occupational schools, please refer to the Division’s website, click here
How do I determine if the education or training offered is exempt?
Statute provides exemption for some entities from regulation by the DPOS for certain types of education or training as defined in section 23-64-104, C.R.S. If you believe the educational services provided are exempt, you must state the specific exempt criteria in 23-64-104, C.R.S., and provide supportive and verifiable documentation to DPOS. If the Division Director or Board determines that you meet one or more of the exempt criteria a letter of exemption is issued granting exemption from DPOS regulation. To review the exemption criteria, please refer to the Division’s website (click here) for the laws governing private occupational schools and education.
How do I qualify for an exemption?
There are specific exemption criteria for which a school, institution, organization or business may apply to DPOS requesting exemption from regulation by DPOS and the Board. The statutory exemptions are found at section 23-64-104, C.R.S. To request consideration for exempt status, please contact the Division.
Does my school have to be accredited to gain Board approval to operate?
No. A school receives approval and authorization from the Private Occupational Schools Board and Department of Higher Education to operate in the state of Colorado based upon the state’s legal requirements, regardless of whether or not it is accredited. Accreditation is not required for Board approval. The term “accreditation” is often misunderstood or incorrectly used synonymously with Board approval. Accreditation is a non-governmental, voluntary peer review process whereby a school elects to seek accreditation status by one or more accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Does the DPOS regulate distance education?
Yes, statute requires all private occupational schools located within Colorado offering education services regardless of the method of delivery to be regulated. Distance education study is offered typically via correspondence or online through the Internet and may be a component of a school’s education programs (classroom, lab, practicum), or in the case of Internet or online schools that offer 100% of its certificate programs and degrees online.
Are schools that are located out of state that recruit prospective students in Colorado to attend an out-of-state school required to be approved?
Yes, out of state schools that are actively soliciting* and recruiting prospective students in the state of Colorado must apply for an out of state certificate of approval and agent permit with the Board. An agent permit is required for any representative of the school that engages in the activities of an agent who offers or attempts to secure the enrollment of any person in this state for education in a school within Colorado or for a school located outside this state. Out of state schools are required secure a minimum $50,000 surety bond and required to renew their certificate of approval to operate annually.
Please refer to the Division’s website (click here) for an Application for an Out-of-State school, Out-of-State Agent’s Permit Application and Guidelines for completing the application process.
*Active solicitation of Colorado students may include (but is not limited to), trying to attract students to enroll in an out-of-state school by placing ads in Colorado newspapers or running ads on Colorado based TV or radios stations; mailing Colorado residents written promotional materials; sending representatives to Colorado to attempt student recruitment; or engaging in other means of solicitation that specifically contacts or targets Colorado residents in order to encourage them to enroll in a private occupational school that is offering a certificate, diploma or degree.
How do I start a private occupational school in Colorado?
To start a school, the first step is the application process. For information about the application process and application forms go to Division’s website (click here), and at School Resources click on Forms. Refer to the Forms for a new school. After thoroughly reading the FAQ's, application materials and information, if you have additional questions, please contact the Division at 303 862-3001 to go over the specific requirements about the approval process.
What does the application process involve?
The application process to become a new school is very detailed requires prospective school owners to establish and comply with statutory minimum standards for all schools. Among the application packet is a “Checklist” to assist schools in completing the application properly. Typically, the application process consists of the following steps:
- school requests application packet and reviews materials;
- school owner or personnel consults with a Division Program Specialist to review application;
- school completes and submits the application packet and applicable fees;
- the Division Program Specialist thoroughly reviews the application and associated materials to ensure compliance with all minimum standards and conducts an onsite inspection of the school’s facilities.
- if need be, corrections and revisions are made to meet minimum standards and requirements and resubmitted to DPOS;
- an industry consultant may be required to evaluate programs;
- once the application has been approved by the Program Specialist, it is present to the Private Occupational Schools Board at its public meeting for consideration and approval.
Once approved does the school need to renew its approval?
Yes, all private occupational schools are required to renew their certificate of approval to operate by the date of expiration on said certificate. Provisional or new schools are granted a provisional certificate to operate for one or two years, at which they renew their certificate and are issued a standard certificate of approval good for three years.
What are the fees?
The DPOS assesses fees to all private occupational schools and the general public to cover the direct and indirect costs of administering the Private Occupational Education Act. Fees are associated with most administrative and Board actions taken regarding a school’s operation and the protection and service of student transcripts and essential school records. For a current and complete list of fees, please refer to the Division’s website (click here).
How long does it take for my application to be approved?
It depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to, whether the application is complete and all required documentation and materials are submitted, whether additional information is needed, whether industry evaluator reports are required, qualified instructional staff and the ability to obtain adequate and sufficient surety coverage. Typically the review and approval of an application may take 3 to 6 months. Schools cannot open or recruit students until they receive approval from the Board.
What is surety?
Private occupational schools in Colorado are required to submit with their initial application to operate, and subsequently on an annual basis thereafter, evidence or proof of surety coverage in the form of a bond, savings account, certificate of deposit or irrevocable letter of credit in an amount determined in accordance of section 23-64-121, C. R.S. The purpose of the surety is to provide student and consumer protection in the event of the loss of tuition and fees as a result of any act or practice that is a violation of any minimum standards and to provide for the train-out for student enrolled in an approved school the ceases operation. To review the statutory requirements regarding surety coverage and protection, please refer to the Division’s website (click here) for section 23-64-121, C.R.S.
What qualifications do teachers need?
Instructional staff at private occupational schools are required to comport with minimum qualifications for instructors as set forth in the Board’s Rules & Regulations. The requirements and qualifications for instructors may be viewed at the Division’s website. The Division does not certify or credential teachers. Schools are required to ensure compliance of all instructional staff in accordance to the minimum qualifications for instructors as specified in Board Rule III.E.2. To assist the schools in ensuring compliance with instructor qualifications, the Division has developed guidelines, instructor application forms and other materials.
Please refer to the Division’s website (click here)
I want to move my school to a new location. Do I need state approval?
Yes, the DPOS requires private occupational schools wishing to move to a new location to complete an Application for Change of Location and submit applicable fees.
Application for Change of Location (click here)
How do I change the name of my school?
All private occupational schools desiring to change the name of their school are required to complete an Application for Change of Name and submit applicable fees to the DPOS.
Application for Change of Name (click here)
I will be selling my private occupational school. Are there any state requirements for a change of ownership of a private occupational school?
Yes, Colorado law mandates that in the event of a change of ownership of a school (a change of 51% or more of the school’s equity occurs), the seller shall notify the DPOS in writing prior to or within 30 days after the change of ownership. An Application of Change of Ownership includes, but is not limited to, surety bond proposal and endorsement from surety company; current balance sheet and income statement; bill of sale, structure and organization of new ownership, responsibility of student train-out, copies of all advertisements, description of program/course offerings, faculty list, new agent’s, school catalog and student enrollment contract.
Application for a Change of Ownership (click here)
Can I operate a school while my application is pending?
No. A school cannot advertise, solicit, recruit of enroll students until the Board has granted approval and issued a certificate of approval to operate.
What if a School is operating and is not approved by the Board?
Unapproved or unauthorized schools are in violation of the law and may be subject to civil and criminal penalties and fines pursuant to sections 23-64-127, 23-64-128, and 23-64-131, C.R.S. The Office of the Colorado Attorney General enforces the statutes concerning the Private Occupational School Act.
Are there advertising standards?
Yes, a school, its agents and representatives are required to abide to specific statutory and rule requirements regarding advertising, solicitation, recruitment practices, job placement and enrollment contracts. These standards are set forth in section 23-64-123, C.R.S., and Board Rule VII concerning deceptive trade and sales practices. All schools shall comply with the following standards that include, but not limited to,
- A school or agent shall not make or cause to be made a statement or representation in connection with the offering of educational services if school or agent knows or reasonably should know the statement or representation to be false, substantially inaccurate, or misleading;
- A school or agent shall not enroll a student when it is reasonably obvious that the student is unlikely to complete successfully a program of study;
- A guarantee of placement shall not be falsely promised or implied;
- A school or agent shall not represent directly or by implication that there is a substantial demand for persons completing programs offered by the school unless objective and statistically valid data can be provided;
- No school shall advertise “accredited” unless such status has been received from an accrediting body currently listed and recognized by the U.S. Department of Secretary;
- A school shall not advertise as an employment agency;
- A school may not follow-up employer help wanted advertisement with offers of training;
- A school shall disclose in its printed advertising and promotional materials the principal location at which education and training is offered; and
- A distance education school shall disclose in its advertising and promotional materials that distance education or correspondence is the primary instructional method of delivery.
What if I have to close the school?
There are specific statutory and rule requirements for closing a school. In the event that you intend to close your school and discontinue offering education and training, notify the DPOS at least 60 days prior to school closure, in writing, so that we may work with you. The Division will acknowledge the school's intention to close and outline the necessary procedures to ensure students are properly refunded or offered a train-out at another school and provide for the preservation of students records and essential school records.
Guidelines on How to Close a School (click here)
How long do I have to keep student records?
Schools are required to maintain student records for a minimum of six-years from the date a student discontinues his/her education and training at a school. Student records shall contain at a minimum the following:
- A copy of the enrollment agreement and other instruments relating to the payment for educational services;
- Student information including:
- Student name
- Permanent or other address at which the student may be contacted
- Records relating to financial payments and refunds
- Record of attendance
- Date of completion or termination of training and the reason(s) as determined by the school;
- Record of any student grievance and complaint and subsequent resolution; and
- Copies of all correspondence or other records relating to the recruitment, enrollment and placement of the student.