The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws

Miscellaneous Laws

Education Licensure Commission Act of 1976

D.C. Code Ann. § 38-1301 et seq.

DC Education Licensure Commission web page 

DCMR chapter 80 

Summary of The Law: This chapter of the Code seeks to protect and educate the citizens of the District and students by regulating the quality of postsecondary institutions and practices by establishing an Educational Licensure Commission which, among other things, licenses such institutions. Provisional licenses are awarded to degree granting institutions until they are deemed eligible for a permanent license, based upon compliance with the chapter's regulations.

In order for a postsecondary educational institution to operate, it must be organized or chartered in the District, registered as a foreign corporation (see D.C. Code Ann. §§ 29-301.64 and 29-101.99) or otherwise be authorized to do business in the District, and obtain a license from the Commission or be granted an exception. Veterans' training must be approved by the commission. The institution may not sell, barter or exchange for consideration any degree, diploma, or certificate. For other limitations on licensure, see D.C. Code Ann. § 38-1309, copied in full below. Congressionally chartered institutions are governed by DC Code§ 38-1310. See Exemptions below.

DC Code § 38-1309. Postsecondary educational institution; requirements.
Effective: March 5, 2013

(a) No person or postsecondary educational institution incorporated in the District of Columbia or outside of the District of Columbia shall operate a postsecondary educational institution in the District of Columbia, offer postsecondary education, have the power to grant or confer or offer to grant or confer a postsecondary degree or a diploma or certificate, offer postsecondary courses for credit, or issue transcripts or other documents to reflect credit toward a postsecondary degree, diploma or certificate, unless:

(1) The institution is granted a license to do so from the Commission or granted an exemption by the Commission in accordance with this chapter; and

(2) The institution is either organized or chartered in the District of Columbia and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered, or organized or chartered outside the District of Columbia and is registered as a foreign corporation pursuant to § 29-101.99 or § 29-301.64, and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered, or is otherwise properly authorized to do business in the District of Columbia and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered.

(b) No person shall state or imply that its educational program or course of instruction is approved for veteran’s training in the District by the District of Columbia State Approving Agency or by the United States Veterans Administration, unless that person has obtained proper approval from the commission.

(c) Except as provided for in this chapter, no person shall sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, or attempt to sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, a degree, diploma, or certificate.

(c-1)(1) No educational institution licensed by the Education Licensure Commission (“Commission”) under the provisions of this chapter shall use as its title, in whole or in part, the words United States, federal, American, national, or civil service, or any other words which might reasonably imply an official connection with the government of the United States, or any of its departments, bureaus, or agencies, or of the government of the District of Columbia, nor shall any such institutions advertise or claim the power to issue degrees under the authority of Congress or otherwise than under the authority of the license granted to them by the Commission as hereinbefore provided. The prohibition in this section contained shall be deemed to include and is hereby declared applicable to any individual or individuals, association, or incorporation outside of the District of Columbia which shall undertake to do business in the District of Columbia or to confer degrees or certificates therein; provided, that no institution, incorporated prior to April 16, 1934, under the provisions of this subchapter [chapter], and carrying on its work exclusively in any foreign country with the consent and approval of the government thereof, shall if otherwise entitled to be licensed by the Commission, be denied the same solely because of the inclusion in its name and as descriptive of its origin of any of the specific words the use of which is by this section forbidden to incorporations under the provisions of this subchapter [chapter].

(2) The Commission may, for good cause shown, waive the prohibition of this section for any nonprofit educational institution incorporated and licensed in any jurisdiction if:

(A) The institution clearly indicates to the Commission’s satisfaction that it is not and does not hold itself out as or affiliated with an institution of the District of Columbia government or the federal government;

(B) The institution provides statements in a conspicuous place in all of its publications, advertising, and student contracts that the institution is not affiliated with the federal or District government;

(C) The institution is accredited by an accrediting association recognized by the United States Secretary of Education; and

(D) The institution otherwise meets all applicable licensing requirements.

(d) The Commission, before granting any license, may require satisfactory evidence:

(1) That, in the case of an individual, unincorporated group of individuals, or incorporated institution, the individual, a majority of the group, or a majority of the trustees, directors, or managers of the incorporated institution are persons of good repute and qualified to conduct an institution of learning; and

(2) That no degree shall be awarded by an institution that is not accredited if more than one-half of the requirements for the degree are earned by correspondence or extramural study, unless this fact is conspicuously noted upon the degree conferred.

(e) No degree shall be granted in medicine or any healing art, or in dentistry, for study pursued or work done by correspondence.


Congressionally chartered institutions are exempt from the above requirements if they meet the conditions set forth in DC Code § 38-1310 (b). This includes an annual filing with the Commission of a current audited financial statement, a certified statement of the school's accreditation status, including whether any conditions have been imposed, a copy of the course catalogue and a response to the Commission's annual data survey. The IHE must not only be chartered by Congress, but also accredited by a regional accrediting association recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Requirements Generally

DCMR 8301.7 Requires the filing of an Annual Data Survey covering the prior academic year of the institution. The information shall be file in the form required by the Commission by a date established by the Commission, which has generally been March 31 of each year. The annual data survey shall be mailed to each institution on a date established by the Commission and shall require submission of certified copies of the IHES's most recent financial audit and catalog and any other data specified by the Commission.

SARA fees for participating institutions

Payment of Annual Fees:  The institutional annual SARA fee is listed on this page,  See also the updated DC SARA filing fees.    The renewal application is due 60 days before license expiration. 



State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (for online education)

Renewal Application for Institutional Participaton in SARA*

updated by mlo 1-25-18