Licensing Institutions

The North Carolina General Statutes Section (G.S.) 116-15 specifies that the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina has regulatory authority to issue licensure to conduct post-secondary degree activity in North Carolina. Further, the Board is statutorily empowered to establish such policies and procedures as it considers necessary for carrying out its duties.

The licensing and exemption from licensure functions of the UNC Board of Governors constitutes an important consumer protection activity. The Board in effect assures the citizens of North Carolina that certain post-secondary educational institutions operating wholly or in part in North Carolina provide students an education of good quality.

The University of North Carolina General Administration maintains a staff to implement the licensure statute using the Rules and Standards for Licensure established by the Board of Governors. The staff manages the application process and facilitates the work of a Team of Examiners that conducts site visits to the campus of institutions applying for a license and then recommends approval or denial of the license application.

"Licensure" and "Accreditation"

The Board of Governors as agent of the State regulates certain post-secondary degree activity in North Carolina through a licensing process. Licensure is required by law. Accreditation, on the other hand, is not a requirement of law.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accreditation in the United States involves non-governmental entities as well as governmental agencies. The Board of Governors cannot grant accreditation.

100% Online Degree Programs

If a degree program is truly 100% online (i.e. no offices, direct advertising, classrooms, field experiences, or employees are located in the state and the institution is not incorporated in the state) then licensure is not required. These degree programs may be offered to North Carolina residents without obtaining a license or paying a fee. We do not provide letters concerning the exemption of 100% online programs from the licensure law. 

Physical Presence & Field Experience Placements

In order to place students in field experiences in North Carolina, an institution must obtain licensure. A field experience is defined as any setting (hospital, clinic, office, school) in North Carolina where a student is placed to complete curriculum requirements of a degree program and will receive college credit for the field experience. This includes, but is not limited to, student teaching, clinical rotations, practicums, internships, and externships.

Licensure Criteria and Application

In carrying out its licensing and exemption from licensure responsibilities, the Board of Governors has clear statutory directions. The licensure statute specifies that 15 minimum standards must be met by applying institutions. These 15 minimum standards are described in the Rules and Standards document. 

There is no traditional application form. Applicants must submit a 3-ring binder with supporting documentation addressing the 15 standards outlined in the Rules and Standards document. The 3-ring binder is what we refer to as the application.

Licensure Process and Timeline

The official beginning, or first step, of the licensure process takes place at an in-person meeting called the Preliminary Conference. The meeting is required and must take place in Chapel Hill, NC.  It normally takes between 14 and 18 months to complete the application process to obtain a license. Please click the link entitled Licensure Timeline for more information about the licensure application process.

Institutions in North Carolina with Licensed Degree Programs

The Board of Governors approves degree programs not institutions. Not all programs are licensed and accredited. A list of approved degree programs can be found here. When you click on the above link to access the list, you can select the institution to confirm if the degree program you are interested in pursuing has been approved by the Board of Governors. If you do not see the degree program on the list, it has not been approved. You should contact institutions directly to confirm their accreditation status.

Resources for Licensure

Resources for Exemption from Licensure

Information about Student Complaints

If you were unable to resolve a complaint through the institution's grievance procedures, please review the Student Complaint Policy (PDF), print out and complete the Student Complaint Form (PDF) and submit the complaint to:

North Carolina Post-Secondary Education Complaints
c/o Terrence R. Scarborough
University of North Carolina General Administration
910 Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688

For more information, you may call (919) 962-4558 or send an email. 

To file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice, please visit the State Attorney General’s web page at North Carolina residents may call (877) 566-7226. If you live outside of North Carolina, please call (919) 716-6000.

If you choose to mail a complaint, please use the following address:

Consumer Protection
Attorney General's Office
Mail Service Center 9001
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001