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What schools must apply for registration?

In Iowa, the process by which a school seeks the State’s explicit authorization to operate in Iowa or offer programs to Iowans is called Registration. 

Under Iowa Code Chapter 261B, Sections 261B.2 and 261B.3, a school that offers postsecondary degree programs must register with Iowa College Aid to operate in Iowa or offer distance education programs to Iowans if:

  1.  A school compensates a person to conduct any portion of a program in Iowa, including through distance education or correspondence study; or
  2. The school otherwise has a presence in Iowa:
    • Presence means an address, location, telephone number, or internet protocol address in Iowa from which a school conducts any aspects of its operations regardless of the instructional modality or whether the school enrolls Iowans in its programs.
    • For a distance education provider, presence also means a location in Iowa at which a student participates in a structured field experience that is a required component of the school’s otherwise distance education program.

Note: A degree granting school that is NOT accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education is prohibited from operating in Iowa, or conducting any portion of its programs in Iowa or to Iowans via in-person instruction or via distance education to Iowans. A single exception exists for a degree-granting school of religious study that meets the limited conditions for Exemption from Registration under Iowa Code Section 261B.11(1)(h).

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What school activities trigger registration?

Below you will find examples of programmatic and operational activities relating to both residential and distance education programs that require a school to register with Iowa College Aid. School activities that trigger registration in Iowa vary depending upon whether the school is approved by its home state to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). This is not an all-inclusive list of school activities that necessitate registration in Iowa.  

 For Schools NOT Approved to Participate in SARA

  • Any of a school's distance education programs include a component, which is required for program completion, that the school permits an Iowan to complete at a location in Iowa; for example, a clinical, practicum, internship, externship or lab.
  • A school compensates any individual or entity to educate Iowans about its distance education programs or recruit students for these programs at a location in Iowa, regardless of whether the individual or entity is based in Iowa.
  • A school houses the technological equipment (e.g., servers) the school uses to facilitate delivery of its distance education programs at a location in Iowa.
  • An entity located in Iowa, and that is owned by the same parent company as the school, promotes the school's distance education programs by providing information to others about the school and its programs.
  • A school compensates an Iowa resident to provide instruction in the school's distance education courses remotely from the instructor's Iowa home, regardless of whether Iowa residents are enrolled in the instructor's course(s).
  • A school compensates an Iowa resident to remotely conduct administrative activities in support of its distance education programs from the Iowa resident's home (e.g., compensating an Iowa resident to work remotely as a call-taker, enrollment or financial aid advisor, or scheduler).
  • Change in ownership, governance or control. (e.g., an out-of-state non-SARA school is  registered in Iowa to offer distance education under Iowa Code Section 261B. The school is purchased and becomes an independently operating and independently accredited subsidiary of a different out-of-state educational corporation).

For Schools APPROVED to Participate in SARA

  • An out-of-state school seeks to establish a branch campus or other site from which it will conduct in-person instruction at a location in Iowa.
  • An out-of-state school wishes to offer classroom instruction in a portion of a residential or distance education program at a location in Iowa.

Example: A school whose campus is located in a state that borders Iowa enrolls Iowa residents in graduate, online business management programs. Iowa residents participate in coursework via distance education until the end of each term. At the end of the term of each program, the students meet with the school’s adjunct faculty at an Iowa location for six hours. The school offers three concurrent courses per term and offers instruction simultaneously to two separate student cohorts.  

  • Change in ownership, governance or control (e.g., an Iowa-originating school that meets the conditions of an exemption from registration under Iowa Code Section 261B.11(1) is acquired by an out-of-state school or other out-of-state corporation.
  • A school wishes to establish an administrative office at an Iowa location, regardless of whether it offers Iowans postsecondary educational courses or programs via classroom instruction or distance education.
  • A school establishes a physical site operated by or on behalf of the school in Iowa from which the school recruits or enrolls students for its distance education or campus-based programs.
  • A school maintains a postal address, a telephone, or fax area code that originates in Iowa.

Note: The Iowa Secretary of State has separate requirements for athlete agents.

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What are examples of school activities that do NOT require registration?

  • For a residential program offered on a school’s campus that is not located in Iowa:  
    • Occasional, short-term activities conducted at a location in Iowa for the purpose of recruiting students for the school’s residential programs.
    • A residency, practicum, internship, clinical, or similar field experience that the out-of-state school permits the student to participate in at a location in Iowa, provided that the person who instructs or supervises students at the lowa location is not compensated by the out-of-state school.
  • Distance education programs that are offered in “hybrid” format. Iowa College Aid does not regulate an otherwise distance education program that requires the student to participate in any activity at the school’s out-of-state campus.
  • Schools that offer only individual distance education courses; for example, a school that offers their campus-based students the option to complete some residential courses in an online format.
  • Proctored examinations.
  • Distance education course activities that require a student to access an Iowa employer but involve no structured interaction between the school and the employer or the employer’s personnel (e.g., for data collection and reporting or observation/shadowing).
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What must a school do to apply for registration?

Schools are encouraged to contact Iowa College Aid’s Postsecondary Authorization Team before submitting a registration application to discuss the school’s proposed activities in Iowa, and obtain validation of the need to register. A school required to register must complete the Registration Application.

Note: The Registration Application now includes applicable questions regarding financial responsibility per Iowa Code Section 714. Schools applying for authorization under registration need to submit only this one application.

Note: The person completing the application will need to create an account through NIC to access the Registration Application. Instructions are found here 

After Iowa College Aid has made a determination that the school must register and the school has had the opportunity to initially review the application, the school is welcome to contact the postsecondary registration team via email or phone to set up a date and time at the school’s convenience for an application briefing. During the briefing, Iowa College Aid staff will walk the school through the application, provide further guidance about application items, and address the school’s questions.

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What does it cost a school to register?

A school that applies for initial registration in Iowa must remit to Iowa College Aid an initial, one-time, nonrefundable registration application fee in the amount of $5,000.

Once a school is approved for registration in Iowa, the school must remit an annual fee payable to Iowa College Aid that is due by July 15 of each year. The annual fee is nonrefundable and will be assessed based on a school’s fall full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, as reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), as follows:

  • Under 2,500 FTE – $2,000
  • 2,500 to 9,999 FTE – $4,000
  • 10,000 FTE or more – $6,000

Note: Iowa College Aid does not charge separate fees based on the number or types of programs the school wishes to offer under its registration.

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What schools have applied for registration in Iowa?

See the List of Registered Schools that are currently registered in Iowa or have registration applications pending review.

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What requirements may apply in addition to registration?

For public colleges and universities, there are no additional requirements.

Nonpublic schools may be required to demonstrate compliance with student financial protections described in Iowa Code Sections 714.18 and 714.23. For-profit schools that do not participate in Federal Student Aid may be required to provide consumer information disclosures described in Iowa Code Section 714.25. For more information see Financial ResponsibilityTuition Refund Policy, and Disclosures.

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What schools may qualify for an exemption from registration?

Read more about which schools qualify to offer programs to Iowans under Exemption from Registration.


Contact the Postsecondary Authorization Team

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