The North Carolina General Statutes Section (G.S.) 116-15 gives the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina authority to issue licenses to nonpublic institutions to conduct post-secondary degree activity in North Carolina. The Board is statutorily empowered to establish the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures it considers necessary to carry out its duties.
Through licensing institutions and granting exemptions from licensure, the Board of Governors performs an important consumer protection function. The Board also assures that post-secondary educational institutions operating wholly or in part in North Carolina provide students with an education of good quality.
The University of North Carolina General Administration (UNCGA) 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 is the official State entity that authorizes institutions to conduct post-secondary degree activity in North Carolina through a licensing process. Licensure is required by state law. Accreditation is voluntary and is not a requirement for state authorization to conduct degree activity.
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. The Board of Governors does 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 academic credit for the field experience. This includes, but is not limited to, student teaching, clinical rotations, practicums, internships, and externships.
Licensure Criteria and Application
The Board of Governors has clear statutory directions for issuing licenses and for granting exemptions from licensure. The licensure statute specifies that institutions must meet 15 minimum standards to obtain a license. 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.
Licensure Process and Timeline
The official first step of the licensure process is attendance at an in-person Preliminary Conference. This meeting with the UNCGA staff 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 Licensure Timeline for more information about the licensure application process.
Institutions with Licensed Degree Programs
The Board of Governors approves individual degree programs but does not license entire institutions. Not all programs are licensed and accredited. A list of approved degree programs can be found here. The link provides access to a list of institutions offering the degree programs that have been approved by the Board of Governors. If a degree program is not on the list, it has not been approved. Prospective students should contact institutions directly to confirm their accreditation status.
Resources for Licensure
Resources for Exemption from Licensure
Information about Student Complaints
The Licensure Division of the University of North Carolina General Administration serves as the official state entity to receive complaints concerning post-secondary institutions that are authorized to operate in North Carolina. If students are unable to resolve a complaint through the institution's grievance procedures, they can 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 Student Complaints
University of North Carolina General Administration
910 Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688
For more information, call (919) 962-4550 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: http://www.ncdoj.gov/complaint. North Carolina residents may call (877) 566-7226. Outside of North Carolina, please call (919) 716-6000. En Espanol (919) 716-0058.
If you choose to mail a complaint, please use the following address:
Consumer Protection Division
Attorney General's Office
Mail Service Center 9001
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001