Responses Last Confirmed:

Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner

Agency Contact

Deanna Velletri
401-736-1118
deanna.velletri@riopc.edu

Additional Contact

Secretary of State Contact

Nellie Gorbea
401-222-2357
nmgorbea@sos.ri.gov
Topic

1: Important Agency Information to Note

a.
Provide any important information about your agency.

Shannon Gilkey, Ed.D., Commissioner on Postsecondary Education
RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
560 Jefferson Boulevard, Suite 200
Warwick, RI 02886
Phone: 401-736-1100

Topic

2: Types of Educational Providers Authorized

a.
Indicate the types of institutions that your agency authorizes. Please provide a short explanation of any ambiguity in the comment section below.

__X___ Public, in-state degree granting institutions
__X___ Public, out-of-state degree granting institutions
__X___ Private, in-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
__X___ Private, out-of-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
__X___ Private, in-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
__X___ Private, out-of-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
__X___ Public, in-state, non-degree granting institutions
__X___ Public, out-of-state, non-degree granting institutions
__X___ Non-degree, not-for profit institutions
__X___ Non-degree, for-profit institutions
__X___ Religious institutions
__X___ Tribally-controlled institutions
__X___ Federal Institutions
__X___ Municipal institutions

b.
Does your agency authorize specific academic programs offered by institutions, only institutions themselves, or both?

____ Institution   _____ Program   __X___ Both

c.
Clarifying comments:

The specific powers and duties of the Council are laid out in RIGL 16-59-1RIGL 16-59-2RIGL 16-59-4RIGL 16-59-6. Among these, the Council is charged with "[formulating] broad policy to implement the goals and objectives established and adopted by the board of education; [adopting] standards and [requiring] enforcement; and [exercising] general supervision over all higher public education in the state and over independent higher education in the state" (RIGL 16-59-4[3]). In exercising these policymaking duties, the Council is the successor to the Board of Governors for Higher Education.

1. Regulations Governing Institutions of Higher Education Operating in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf). These regulations pertain to all programs of any level offered by degree-granting institutions outside of the Rhode Island system of public higher education and to institutions offering only certificate programs at the post-associate level or above. With one statutory exception, for-profit institutions may not offer degrees in Rhode Island.

2. Regulations Governing Academic Changes in Rhode Island Public Institutions of Higher Education
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A4_Academic_Changes_Regs.pdf). These regulations pertain to the institutions in the Rhode Island system of public higher education.

3. Regulations Governing Proprietary Schools in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf). These regulations pertain to schools operated on a for-profit or on a non-profit basis (i.e., organizations, associations, corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships) that grant awards only at the pre-associate certificate level.

Per the Regulations Governing Institutions of Higher Education Operating in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf), Degree-granting institutions of higher education outside of the RI system of public higher education, including in-state and out-of-state independent institutions and out-0f-state public institutions must provide evidence that they have initiated discussions with the New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC) in order to receive initial approval to operate. Within five years and before receiving full approval, these institutions must be accredited by NEASC at all levels for which they are seeking Rhode Island approval. (Note: A for-profit institution may not grant degrees in Rhode Island unless authorized by Rhode Island statutes specific to the institution.)

Topic

3: Accreditation

a.
Is accreditation required for an institution to be authorized in your state?

Yes, for degree-granting institutions only.

b.
If yes, please check all that apply as appropriate.

Accreditation Required for:
__X__ Public, out-of-state degree granting institutions
__X__ Private, in-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
_____ Private, out-of-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
__X__ Private, in-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
__X__ Private, out-of-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
__X__ Public, in-state, non-degree granting institutions
_____ Public, out-of-state, non-degree granting institutions
_____ Non-degree, not-for profit institutions
_____ Non-degree, for-profit institutions
__X__ Religious institutions
__X__ Tribally-controlled institutions
__X__ Federal Institutions
__X__ Municipal institutions

c.
Clarifying comments:

Degree-granting institutions of higher education outside of the Rhode Island system of public higher education, including in-state and out-of-state independent institutions and out-of-state public institutions. These institutions may apply to offer courses that award college-level credit, programs, degrees, or certificates (at any level). To receive initial approval, these institutions must provide evidence that they have initiated discussions with the New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC). Within five years and before receiving full approval, these institutions must be accredited by NEASC at all levels for which they are seeking Rhode Island approval. (Note: A for-profit institution may not grant degrees in Rhode Island unless authorized by Rhode Island statutes specific to the institution.)

Institutions that offer only certificate programs, at least one of which is at the post-associate level or above. These institutions may apply to offer courses that award college-level credit, programs, or certificates (at any level). Before receiving full approval, these institutions must be nationally accredited at all levels for which they are seeking Rhode Island approval. However, certificate-only granting institutions that wish to offer only pre-associate level certificates in Rhode Island must apply for approval under the RIBGHE’s Regulations Governing Proprietary Schools in Rhode Island.

Topic

4: Exemptions

a.
Are certain institutions or programs exempt by law or policy from your state authorization requirements?

1. Regulations Governing Institutions of Higher Education Operating in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf); Section IV: Exemptions (p. 23).

2. Regulations Governing Proprietary Schools in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf); Section II: General Provisions for Proprietary Schools and Exemptions (p. 4).

b.
If yes, for what types of institutions? Which types of programs?

See above.

c.
Web link for exemptions.

See above.

d.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

5: Authorization of Distance Education

a.
Does your agency require purely online programs offered by out-of-state institutions to be authorized without regard to physical presence?

Yes. 

b.
If not, does your agency determine whether an institution must be authorized based on a physical presence (“operating”) standard?

No response provided

c.
Does your agency require correspondence study programs to be authorized without regard to physical presence?

Yes. 

d.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

6: Physical Presence Policy

a.
If your agency uses a physical presence standard, how does your agency define physical presence?

Physical presence. a. A provider has a “physical presence” if 1. It is physically located within the borders of Rhode Island; or 2. It maintains or sends within the borders of Rhode Island employees or paid representatives whose purpose is to conduct any activities, including, but not limited to the following: advising of students, offering courses or programs, regular administration of examinations. b. A provider with a legal domicile outside Rhode Island may be exempted from §a.2 under “physical presence,” if it meets both of the following criteria: 1. The provider has been authorized by its home state to participate in NC SARA or has been authorized by CPE as a non-SARA institution; and 2. The provider does not engage in any activities in Rhode Island that constitute a physical presence as defined in the NC-SARA Physical Presence Standard.

c.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

7: Student Complaints - SARA Participating Institutions

a.
Please describe the process for handling complaints about SARA participating Institutions.
b.
Is the process handled all within your agency or do you divide consumer protection and student complaint duties dependent on the type of institution (Public, Private, Technical, etc.)?

All within OPC.

c.
Web link for student complaints – SARA participating institutions.
d.
Who is the contact person at your agency for receiving complaints?

Contact Name: Deanna Velletri
Title: Proprietary School Specialist
Agency: RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
Address: 560 Jefferson Boulevard Suite 100, Warwick, RI 02886
Email: Deanna.velletri@riopc.edu
Phone: 401-736-1118
Website: www.riopc.edu

 

e.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

8: Student Complaints - Non-SARA Participating Institutions

a.
Please describe the process for handling complaints about out-of-state postsecondary institutions or programs?
b.
Is the process handled all within your agency or do you divide consumer protection and student complaint duties dependent on the type of institution (Public, Private, Technical, etc.)?

All within RIOPC

c.
Does this complaint process extend to institutions not authorized by the agency that may enroll residents of the state (such as explicitly distance education programs with no physical presence or exempt institutions)?

Yes

d.
Who is the contact person at your agency for receiving complaints?

Contact Name: Deanna Velletri
Title: Specialist, Proprietary Schools and Special Academic Projects
Agency: RI Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner
Address: 560 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI 02886
Email: Deanna.velletri@riopc.edu
Phone: 401-736-1118
URL: https://www.riopc.edu/page/student_complaint/

e.
Web link for the complaint form.
f.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

9: Surety Bonds

a.
Does your state require a Surety Bond for authorized out-of-state institutions?

Yes

b.
Web link for surety bonds.

Regulations Governing Institutions of Higher Education Operating in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf); Section III, I Fiscal Responsibilities (P. 17).

Regulations Governing Proprietary Schools in Rhode Island
(https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf); Standard 10: Financial Stability (p. 25).

c.
Clarifying comments:

Proprietary: Before an initial approval or renewal of annual approval is issued to a school, the school must show evidence that it is covered by a bond, as prescribed, signed by a surety company authorized to do business in Rhode Island. The surety company must have a rating of at least A in the AM Best Key Rating Guide. a. The bond must be submitted in the format specified by RIOHE. Degree-Granting: For-profit institutions will be required and non-profit institutions that are not financially stable will also be required to furnish bonds, with corporate surety, payable to the RIOPC as trustee for students of the institution; in some instances and with prior approval from the commissioner, an irrevocable letter of credit may be substituted for a bond.

Topic

10: Tuition Refund Policy

a.
Does your state have a Tuition Refund Policy Requirement?

No

b.
If yes, for what types of institutions?

No response provided

c.
Web link for tuition refund policy.

No response provided

d.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

11: Student Tuition Recovery Fund

a.
Does your state have a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (or similar fund for school closure)?

No.

b.
If yes, for what types of institutions?

No response provided

c.
Web link for student tuition recovery fund.

No response provided

d.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

12: Reporting

a.
What kinds of information or data must an institution report to your agency as a condition for continued out-of-state authorization?

Degree-granting:  https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf

For-profit institutions must submit to the commissioner an annual report (due on or before August 1) covering all programs offered at all levels (i.e., certificate and/or degree programs). The report should contain the following: 1. Current financial statements (prepared by a certified public accountant). Audited financial statements must be supplied annually by for-profit institutions that participate in the federal Title IV student financial aid programs. 2. Evidence of continued bonding through the upcoming year. 3. Copies of the institution’s current catalog and student enrollment agreement (if appropriate). 4. List of all current faculty including educational credentials and experience. 5. Enrollment and completions summary for each program. 6. Information on the most recently available pass rate of the institution’s graduates on any licensure or certification examinations required by the state of Rhode Island for employment in the field for which the institution provides training. 7. Recent data regarding the placement rates for the institution’s graduates in occupations related to their courses of study. 8. Certification from the deputy fire marshal, local building inspector and state health department that the institution adheres to the regulations as established by these agencies.

Proprietary:  https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf

A school seeking renewal of annual approval must be in operation and must make application to RIOPC at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of the approval (August 31). Any school making application for annual renewal of the Certificate of Approval shall submit the following materials: 1. Completed annual application form. 2. Completed and notarized anti‐discrimination compliance agreement. 3. A renewal fee of $200.00 in the form of a nonrefundable check or money order payable to the RIOPC. 4. Current financial statements (prepared by a certified public accountant or a licensed public accountant) accompanied by a notarized statement signed by the owner, indicating that the information is true and correct. Audited financial statements may be required more frequently than stipulated in Standard 10.2 if there are questions regarding the financial stability of a school. 5. Evidence of continued bonding through the upcoming year. 6. Certification from the deputy fire marshal, local building inspector and state health department that the school adheres to the regulations as established by these agencies. 8. Program enrollment and completions summary. 9. Information on the most recently available pass rate of the school’s graduates on any licensure or certification examinations required by Rhode Island for employment in the field for which the school provides training. 10. Recent data regarding the placement rates for the school’s graduates in occupations related to their courses of study. 11. Statement regarding school accreditation status. 12. One copy of the current student enrollment agreement. 13. Two copies of the current school catalog. 14. Updated approval information form (supplied by RIOPC with the renewal packet). Note that many changes are subject to prior approval (see section on Prior Approval for Changes below). 15. Any other materials that the commissioner deems appropriate.

SARA: https://nc-sara.org/data-files

Enrollments

Institutions participating in SARA shall annually report to NC-SARA the number of exclusively Distance Education students enrolled in the Institution engaged in Distance Education, disaggregated by State, territory, or district in which the students are located, including the Home state. This would include both Degree and non-degree for credit courses. These data shall be reported annually to NC-SARA in the spring following the due date for institutions to make their previous fall enrollment reports to the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Note: In-state distance education enrollment reporting started in 2019

Out-of-State Learning Placements

Institutions participating in SARA shall annually report to NC-SARA the numbers of their students engaged in certain out-of-state learning placements (OOSLP) in every state, territory, and district other than their own. SARA participating institutions shall report their out-of-state learning placements (clinical rotations, student teaching, internships, etc.) disaggregated by State, territory, or district and the two-digit Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes as assigned by the U.S. Department of Education.

Consumer Protection (Complaints)

Provisions of the SARA Manual, including those for consumer protection and the resolution of complaints, apply to interstate distance education offered by participating SARA institutions to students in other SARA States. Only those complaints resulting from distance education courses, activities and operations provided by SARA-participating institutions to students in other SARA States come under the coverage of SARA. Complaints about a SARA institution’s in-state operations are to be resolved under the state’s normal provisions, not those of SARA. SARA consumer protection provisions require the home state, through its SARA Portal Entity, to investigate and resolve allegations of dishonest or fraudulent activity by the state’s SARA-participating institutions, including the provision of false or misleading information. The State Portal Entity is responsible for conducting the investigation and resolution of complaints that are not resolved at the institutional level.

b.
How frequently do institutions report data?

Annually, or as requested.

c.
Is this information published or shared publicly?

No. 

e.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

13: Enforcement

a.
What are possible consequences of institutional non-compliance?

https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf; Administrative Penalties and Suspension of Certain Operations, page 14.

b.
Web link for enforcement information.

No response provided

c.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

14: Application Process

a.
Please provide a short description of the application process to obtain state authorization.

Proprietary: https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A6_proprietaryregs_063008.pdf

Any proprietary school wishing to operate in Rhode Island must first obtain a Certificate of Approval from the Council on Postsecondary Education; renewal of this approval must be obtained annually. In Section III, subsections on Pre‐Application Assessment of Financial Condition and Initial Approval outline the procedures that must be successfully completed for a school to begin operation. The subsection on Renewal of Annual Approval describes the procedures that must be followed to obtain annual renewal and the circumstances under which the commissioner of higher education may grant conditional approval to a school. Section IV: Standards for the Operation of Proprietary Schools lists the standards that schools must maintain in order to operate in Rhode Island.

Degree Granting: https://www.riopc.edu/static/photos/2017/01/04/A5_regsinst.pdf

Eligibility for approval is predicated on the institution’s accreditation or candidacy for accreditation by NEASC. Current regulations state that institutions must be regionally accredited to receive full approval. Institutions must apply for (and action by the OPC is necessary to secure) approval.

SARA: https://www.riopc.edu/page/RI-SARA/

RI-SARA Application Process: All Rhode Island institutions of higher education are invited to apply to join RI-SARA. Each institutional application will have substantive agreement provisions (e.g., academic, financial, and procedural).

Non SARA Authorization: The Council on Postsecondary Education has established an authorization process for non-profit institutions who are interested in offering distance learning opportunities to RI residents but whose home state is not part of NC-SARA (non-SARA) or is not authorized by its respective NC-SARA portal agency.

b.
Web link for application.
c.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

15: Fees Associated with Authorization

a.
Is there an application fee associated with the authorization process?

Proprietary: On June 17, 2015, the Council on Postsecondary Education approves the increase in fees associated with the application, annual renewal and change of ownership of proprietary schools operating in Rhode Island, as follows --

  • Initial Application Fee: $2,000
  • Annual Renewal Fee:  $200
  • Change of Ownership:  $1,000

SARA:

Fees for RI-SARA Institutions 

Rhode Island In-state Institutions: Initial Application Fees

  •  $3,500 for institutions with FTE under 2,500
  •  $6,000 for institutions with FTE 2,500--9,999
  •  $8,500 for institutions with FTE 10,000+

 
 Rhode Island In-state Institutions: Annual Renewal Fees

  •  $1,500 for institutions with FTE under 2,500
  •  $4,000 for institutions with FTE 2,500--9,999
  •  $6,000 for institutions with FTE 10,000+

Fees for Non-SARA Institutions

Out-of-state, Non-Profit, Non-SARA Institutions: Initial Application Fees

  •  $5,000 for institutions with FTE under 2,500
  •  $7,500 for institutions with FTE 2,500--9,999
  •  $10,000 for institutions with FTE 10,000+

 
Out-of-state, Non-Profit, Non-SARA Institutions: Annual Authorization Fees

  •  $5,000 for institutions with FTE under 2,500
  •  $7,500 for institutions with FTE 2,500--9,999
  •  $10,000 for institutions with FTE 10,000+
b.
If yes, what is the fee or fee schedule?

See above.

d.
Clarifying comments:

The proprietary school regulations do not correctly identify the application fees. Proprietary school fees were increased at the June 17, 2015, Council on Postsecondary Education meeting.

Topic

16: Records Retention

a.
When a school closes, what is the process your state uses to ensure that transcripts/records are kept available?
b.
From what agency do students request their transcripts/records from a closed school?
c.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic

17: Additional Information

a.
Is there anything else about the authorization process in your state that we and others ought to know about?

No response provided