Responses Last Confirmed:

Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

Agency Contact

Kristen Stone, M.P.P., Assistant Director for Academic and Veterans Affairs
(617) 994-6959
kstone@dhe.mass.edu

Additional Contact

Secretary of State Contact

William Galvin
617-727-9180
cis@ses.stat.ma.us
Topic:

Types of Educational Providers Authorized

2A1.
Institution Types Authorized – 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
_____    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
_____    Tribally-controlled institutions
_____    Federal Institutions
_X___   Municipal institutions

2A2.
Clarifying comments:

Independent and out-of-state institutions seeking to offer college courses without leading to a degree are subject to MBHE approval.

2B1.
Is accreditation required for an institution to be authorized in your state? Yes or No.

Yes

2B2.
Clarifying comments:

Out-of-state institutions seeking approval in Massachusetts must be accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), or a regional and/or a national accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

2B3.
If yes, what type of accreditation is required? Please, check all that apply as appropriate.

Regional Accreditation Required for:
_X___ Public, out-of-state degree granting institutions
____ Private, in-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
_X___ Private, out-of-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
____ Private, in-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
_X___ Private, out-of-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
____ 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
____ Religious institutions
____ Tribally-controlled institutions
____ Federal Institutions
____ Municipal institutions

National Accreditation Required for:
_X___ Public, out-of-state degree granting institutions
____ Private, in-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
_X___ Private, out-of-state, not-for-profit degree granting institutions
____ Private, in-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
_X___ Private, out-of-state, for-profit degree granting institutions
____ 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
____ Religious institutions
____ Tribally-controlled institutions
____ Federal Institutions
____ Municipal institutions
 

2B4.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

2C1.
Does your agency authorize specific academic programs offered by institutions, only institutions themselves, or both?

____ Institution   _____ Program   __X___ Both

2C2.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

2D1.
Does your state require a Surety Bond for authorized out-of-state institutions? Yes or No.

No

2D2.
Clarifying comments:

No response needed

2E1.
Does your state have a Tuition Refund Policy Requirement? If so, for which types of institutions?

Yes.    Per 610 CMR 2.07(3)(e)(4), independent and out-of-state institutions are required to make public its policy regarding refunds of moneys, which shall be fair and equitable.

Topic:

Exemptions

3A1.
Are certain institutions or programs exempt by law or policy from your state authorization requirements? If so, for which types of institutions? Which types of programs? Please provide web link.

Yes.  Massachusetts-based institutions that were chartered prior to the creation of the Board of Higher Education in 1943 are usually not subject to the authority of the Board. There are a few exceptions, where “pre-1943” institutions have made amendments to their articles of organization that brought them under Board purview.

Non-degree granting institutions are subject to the authorization and oversight of the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure’s Office of Private Occupational School Education.

Topic:

Authorization of Distance Education

4A1.
Does your agency require purely online programs offered by out-of-state institutions to be authorized without regard to physical presence? Yes or No.

No

4A2.
If not, does your agency determine whether an institution must be authorized based on a physical presence (“operating”) standard? Yes or No.

Yes

4A3.
Clarifying comments:

At this time, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s (BHE) definition of physical presence does not include 100% distance education or experiential learning activities, such as internships, externships, clinical, or practica within the Commonwealth. However, if an institution also engages in the one of the following activities, BHE approval is required:

  1. Occupying, regardless of ownership, an actual physical location for instructional purposes, whether synchronous or asynchronous instruction;
  2.  Maintaining an administrative office to facilitate instruction in the Commonwealth, or for purposes of providing information to prospective students or the general public about the institution, or enrolling students or providing services to enrolled students;
  3. Providing office space to instructional or non-instructional staff;
  4. Establishing an institutional mailing address, street address or phone number in the Commonwealth.

However, Massachusetts’ requirements are in the process of changing:

  • In October 2017, the BHE voted in favor of Massachusetts joining SARA, an interstate reciprocity agreement for state authorization. Now that Massachusetts has become a SARA state, if an institution is authorized to operate under SARA by the institution’s home state, any online programs that the institution offers will be governed by the terms of the SARA Operations and Policy Manual.
  • Contemporaneously, the BHE is also reviewing and amending its degree-granting authority regulations, and it is likely that the revised regulations will impose certain requirements for authorization for non-SARA institutions. The BHE currently anticipates that amended regulations will be in place in Spring 2021. Once the revised regulations have been promulgated, if an institution is not authorized to operate under SARA, the institution will no longer be able to offer 100% online programs without obtaining BHE approval/authorization
4B1.
Does your agency require correspondence study programs to be authorized without regard to physical presence? Yes or No

No

4B2.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic:

Physical Presence Policy - Common Triggers

5A1.
If your agency uses a physical presence standard, how does your agency define physical presence? If available, please provide a link to that policy or a citation to the relevant regulation giving that standard.

At this time, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s (BHE) definition of physical presence does not include 100% distance education or experiential learning activities, such as internships, externships, clinical, or practical within the Commonwealth. However, if an institution also engages in the one of the following activities, BHE approval is required:

1.    Occupying, regardless of ownership, an actual physical location for instructional purposes, whether synchronous or asynchronous instruction;
2.    Maintaining an administrative office to facilitate instruction in the Commonwealth, or for purposes of providing information to prospective students or the general public about the institution, or enrolling students or providing services to enrolled students;
3.    Providing office space to instructional or non-instructional staff;
4.    Establishing an institutional mailing address, street address or phone number in the Commonwealth
 

5A2.
URL for physical presence definition

No response provided

5A3.
Clarifying comments:

Massachusetts’ requirements are in the process of changing:

  • In October 2017, the BHE voted in favor of Massachusetts joining SARA, an interstate reciprocity agreement for state authorization. Now that Massachusetts has become a SARA state, if an institution is authorized to operate under SARA by the institution’s home state, any online programs that the institution offers will be governed by the terms of the SARA Operations and Policy Manual.
  • Contemporaneously, the BHE is also reviewing and amending its degree-granting authority regulations, and it is likely that the revised regulations will impose certain requirements for authorization for non-SARA institutions. The BHE currently anticipates that amended regulations will be in place in 2020. Once the revised regulations have been promulgated, if an institution is not authorized to operate under SARA, the institution will no longer be able to offer 100% online programs without obtaining BHE approval/authorization
Topic:

Application Process

6A1.
Description – Please provide a short description of the application process to obtain state authorization. If available, please provide web links to the specific references to all applicable state laws, regulations, manuals, forms, or other pertinent docu

Independent and Out-of-State institutions must submit an application to the Board of Higher Education. In addition, the Articles of Amendment/Organization or Foreign Corporation Certificate must also be filed be with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which are then referred to the Board of Higher Education for  investigation of the institution, its faculty, equipment, courses of study, financial organization, leadership, and other relevant facts. 

As indicated in 610 CMR 2.07(2), the process requires a review of the application and an evaluation by outside experts who are formed into a visiting committee, a public notice and comment period, and a vote by the Board of Higher Education.

6A3.
Clarifying comments:

Prior to submitting an application, an institution is strongly encouraged to consult with DHE staff.

Topic:

Fees Associated with Authorization

7A1.
Application Fee – Is there an application fee to initiate the authorization process? If so, what is the fee or fee schedule? Please provide a web link if available.

An institution shall pay the following fees:

  • For the initial licensure of a Massachusetts-based or Out-of-state institution: $10,000 plus $2,000 for each degree requested at the same time if more than one.
  • Annual fee each year for the first five years following initial licensure for institutions new to Massachusetts: $4,000
  • For each additional degree at Massachusetts licensed institutions: $4,500 plus $2,000 for each additional degree requested at the same time if more than one.
  • Periodic inspection or review (if a separate review from Board’s participation in NECHE review is required): $4,000.
  • Other requests requiring public hearings (e.g., award honorary degree(s), change the name of an institution, or retitle an existing, authorized degree): $500.
  • Institutional closure: $500.
  • At this time, Notice of Intent reviews are conducted without cost to eligible institutions.
7A2.
URL for Fee Information

https://www.mass.edu/610CMR  610 CMR 2.06(1)(b)

7A3.
Clarifying comments:

There are additional costs associated with the site visit related to travel and other accommodations for the reviewers and DHE staff.

Topic:

Reporting

8A1.
What kinds of information or data must an institution report to your agency as a condition for continued out-of-state authorization?

The Department of Higher Education does not require the submission of any information or data from out-of-state institutions at this time, unless they have established a physical presence in Massachusetts, in which case they are subject to the requirements in our regulations, including periodic review and investigation as needed.

8A2.
URL for reporting

No response provided

8A3.
How frequently do institutions report data?

No response provided

8A4.
Is this information published or shared publicly?

With limited exception, all documents made or received by the DHE are public records and subject to disclosure upon request.

8A5.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic:

Consumer Protection and Student Complaints - Non-SARA Participating Institutions

9A1.
Please describe the process for handling complaints about out-of-state postsecondary institutions or programs?

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) attempts to provide an avenue for the informal resolution of student complaints and concerns regarding institutions of higher education in Massachusetts. At this time, the Board does not maintain jurisdiction over complaints received against institutions of higher education residing outside of Massachusetts that offer 100% online distance (online) courses and programs to Massachusetts residents.

If an out-of-state institution of higher education maintains physical presence in Massachusetts, then students may utilize the Board’s consumer complaint process found here: https://www.mass.edu/forstufam/complaints/complaints.asp.

 

9A3.
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.)?

This process is managed internally within the Department of Higher Education; unless the nature of a complaint rises to the level of needing intervention from the State Attorney General’s Office. The Department does not oversee technical (i.e., non-degree-granting institutions). Any complaints against one of those institutions would be handled according to the procedures established by the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure’s Office of Private Occupational School Education.

9A4.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

9B1.
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)?

No

9B2.
Who is the contact person at your agency for receiving complaints?
  • Contact Name: Angela Williams  
  • Title:  Paralegal and Coordinator for Accountability & Regulatory Affairs
  • Agency: Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
  • Address: One Ashburton Place, Room 1401, Boston, MA 02108
  • Email: awilliams@dhe.mass.edu
  • Phone: (617) 994-6963
  • URL:
9B3.
Clarifying comments:

No response provided

Topic:

Consumer Protection and Student Complaints - SARA Participating Institutions

10A1.
Please describe the process for handling complaints about SARA participating Institutions.

The following information regarding the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s SARA Complaint Process is excerpted from https://www.mass.edu/foradmin/sara/complaints.asp.

Student Complaints

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, in its capacity as the SARA portal entity for Massachusetts, reviews and evaluates student complaints regarding distance learning programs offered by Massachusetts-based institutions that are members of SARA in accordance with 610 CMR 12.07. Complaints that should be filed as a SARA Complaint are those that pertain to distance (online) education provided by Massachusetts-based SARA institutions to students residing in other states pursuant to SARA only. Complaints about a SARA institution’s operations or activities in Massachusetts can be filed here and will be resolved pursuant to 610 CMR 2.00 or otherwise in accordance with the institution's policies.

The SARA complaint process is as follows:

  1. Students must first attempt to resolve their complaint using internal administrative procedures offered by the SARA institution.
  2. After all administrative remedies have been exhausted with the MA-SARA institution, the student may submit a SARA Complaint via the URL below.
  3. The Department shall send a copy of the complaint to the institution that is the subject of the complaint;
  4. Within 30 days of the date that the Department sends a copy of the complaint to the institution, the institution must provide a written response to the student and the Department.

More information about the BHE’s complaint process can be found here.

Within 30 days of the date the Department received the institution’s response, or if the Department receives no response, the Commissioner or his or her designee shall issue a notice to the institution containing the Commissioner’s findings regarding the complaint; any corrective actions that the institution shall take; and that, should the institution fail to take those corrective actions, the complaint shall be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for review and, if the Office of the Attorney General deems it appropriate, enforcement action.

10A2.
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.)?

The process for handling SARA complaints is administered entirely by SARA personnel in the General Counsel Unit of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Institutions are provided the opportunity to respond in writing to SARA complaints filed with the Department of Higher Education, and the Department evaluates institutional responses in light of the SARA complaint and requirements set forth in 610 CMR 12.00 et seq. as well as the NC-SARA Policy Manual.

10A3.
URL for student complaints – SARA participating institutions
10A4.
Who is the contact person at your agency for receiving complaints?

 

10A5.
Clarifying comments:

While there are differences in the types of student complaints that are reviewable under SARA, the Department’s procedure for forwarding and evaluating institutional responses to SARA complaints is essentially the same procedure for evaluating student complaints filed under the Department’s general consumer complaint process.

Topic:

Enforcement

11A1.
If your agency has written descriptions of the possible consequence of institutional non-compliance, please provide it (or provide a web link).

An investigation of an institution will be carried out when facts are brought to the attention of the Board suggesting a reasonable probability of non-compliance with 610 CMR 2.00; or suggesting a reasonable probability that a degree or degrees are being or will be awarded within the Commonwealth without proper authority; or that a course or courses available to residents of the Commonwealth leading to the award of a degree or degrees are being or will be conducted within the Commonwealth without proper authority. When an investigation is undertaken to inquire into probable noncompliance with standards, the Board will require the institution to provide specific information pertinent to the specific concern. The Board may require the institution to provide some or all of the information described in 610 CMR 2.07 and/or 610 CMR 2.08, if applicable.

In accordance with the provisions of M.G.L. c. 69, § 30A, if the Board has reason to believe that an institution does not comply with its regulations it shall conduct a preliminary inquiry of the matter. If this inquiry indicates a reason to believe that the institution does not comply with 610 CMR 2.00, the Commissioner of Higher Education may, if appropriate, review the alleged violations with the institution and approve a corrective course of action by the institution. Where the Commissioner does not determine it to be appropriate to review the alleged violations with the institution, or if the preliminary inquiry does not result in a satisfactory resolution of the concern, the Board may conduct an adjudicatory hearing pursuant to M.G.L. c. 69, § 30A to determine whether to revoke or suspend the institution's degree-granting authority. The Board may revoke or suspend the institution's degree-granting at the expiration of the time to file an appeal pursuant to M.G.L. c. 30A (30 days) if the institution elects not to file an appeal, or upon a final decision of an appeal by the court. The Board shall notify the Secretary of State and the institution of any revocation or suspension.

http://www.mass.edu/610cmr (610 CMR 2.10)

Topic:

Records Retention

12A1.
When a school closes, what is the process your state uses to ensure that transcripts/records are kept available?

Massachusetts law requires closing institutions to notify the Board of Higher Education of its intention to close as far as possible and well in advance by contacting the Department of Higher Education.  The closing institution is required to provide to the Department specific information regarding how and where student records will be maintained, including the name, address, and contact information.  

12B1.
From what agency do students request their transcripts/records from a closed school?

The Department of Higher Education maintains information about the location of transcripts for closed institutions. For information regarding transcripts from a closed degree-granting college or university, students should contact the appropriate entity listed as the record holder for the closed institution.

 

Topic:

Additional Information

13A1.
Is there anything else about the authorization process in your state that we and others ought to know about?

The DHE strongly recommends that institutions contact DHE staff for further information, guidance and clarification if they have any questions or are unsure about the process.

14.
Does your state have a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (or similar fund for school closure)? Yes or No. If Yes, for what type of institutions?

No