North Carolina General Statute 116-15 gives the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina authority to issue licenses to nonpublic and out-of-state 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. Licenses and exemptions are issued on a program-by-program basis.
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.
Licensure Criteria and Application
The Board of Governors has 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. Institutional representatives, not students, must contact the state concerning application for licensure. 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. The timeline for processing an application varies depending on several factors, including whether the applying institution already has licensed programs, the degree level(s) and concentrations to be offered, and the institution’s financial well-being.
Institutions with Licensed Degree Programs
The Board of Governors approves individual degree programs but does not license entire institutions. A list of approved degree programs can be found here. The list does not include programs which are exempt from licensure. Prospective students should contact institutions directly to confirm accreditation status.
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.
UNCGA is not a professional licensing board. For questions concerning field placement requirements for professional licensure, students should contact the corresponding state board (i.e. NC Board of Nursing, NC Department of Public Instruction, NC Social Work Certification and Licensure Board, NC Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, etc.).
Exemption From Licensure
Any out-of-state institution conducting post-secondary degree activity in North Carolina pursuant to a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) to which the State of North Carolina is a party shall be exempt from licensure requirements. The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements provides information concerning SARA participating institutions. Degree programs which are exempt from licensure through SARA are not listed on the state’s list of approved degree programs. For more information, contact the SARA State Portal Entity at email@example.com.
To the extent that an institution undertakes post-secondary degree activity on the premises of military posts or reservations located in this State for military personnel stationed on active duty there, or their dependents, or employees of the military, the institution shall be exempt from licensure requirements. [G.S. 116-15(e)] If the institution offers or conducts post-secondary degree activity for other persons, the institution shall be subject to licensure.
No institution shall be subject to licensure with respect to post-secondary degree activity based upon a program of study, equivalent experience, or achievement testing, the institutionally planned objective of which is the attainment of a degree in theology, divinity, or religious education or in any other program of study, equivalent experience, or achievement testing that is designed by the institution primarily for career preparation in a religious vocation. This exemption shall be extended with respect to each program of study, equivalent experience, and achievement test that the institution demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Board should be exempt from licensure requirements. [G.S. 116-15(d)] Institutions seeking a religious exemption must complete the application for religious exemption and follow directions contained therein. For more information, see the Board of Governors Policy on Religious Exemption.
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