Degree Authorization Act

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The details on this web page are excerpted from the CCHE Policy regarding the Degree Authorization Act. For complete details and explanations, read the entire policy.

About the Degree Authorization Act

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education has statutory responsibility for administration of Title 23, Article 2 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, which authorizes certain types of institutions to offer degrees and/or degree credits. These are: (1) Colorado publicly-supported colleges and universities; (2) properly accredited private colleges and universities; (3) postsecondary seminaries and bible colleges; and (4)private occupational schools authorized by the Private Occupational School Division to offer associate degrees.

The Commission shall administer the statute by seeking information from any entity offering degrees and/or degree credits to determine its authority. In order to determine the institutional type and to identify those institutions which are subject to the specific accreditation requirements of the statute, criteria have been established for each institutional type authorized to offer degrees or credits leading toward a degree.

Granting of Authorization

Authorization shall be granted upon presentation of adequate information by the
postsecondary institution seeking authorization to the Colorado Commission on Higher
Education. As the first step toward authorization, representatives of a seminary or bible
college or a private college or university shall consult with the designated
administrator of the Degree Authorization Act (Ms. Heather DeLange) prior to submission of required documentation.


For full details of criteria, read the entire policy.

Private College or University

  • Accredited on the basis of an on-site review in Colorado by one of the six
    regional accrediting associations; or
  • Accredited by an acceptable alternative accrediting agency determined by the
    Colorado Commission on Higher Education to be appropriate to its educational
    purposes and programs; or
  • Making reasonable and timely progress toward such accreditation, as
    determined by or in accordance with standards determined by the Commission.

Seminary or Bible College

  • Be a nonprofit institution owned, controlled, and operated and
    maintained by a bone fide church or religious denomination, lawfully
    operating as a non-profit religious corporation pursuant to Title 7 of
    the Colorado Revised Statutes.
  • Limit the educational program to the principles of that church or
    denomination, and the diploma or degree is limited to evidence of
    completion of that education. Institutions operating under this degree
    authorization shall not award degrees in any area of physical science
    or medicine.
  • Only grant degrees or diplomas in areas of study that contain on their
    face, in the written description of the title of the degree or diploma
    being conferred, a reference to the theological or religious aspect of
    the degree's subject area. (See Section 3.01.04, below.)
  • Not market, offer, or grant degrees or diplomas which are represented
    as being linked to a church or denomination, but which, in reality, are
    degrees in secular areas of study.
  • Have obtained exemption from property taxation under state law and
    shall have submitted a copy of the certificate of this exemption to the
    Commission. (See Section 3.01.02, below.)

Private Occupational School

  • To qualify for the private occupational school exemption, the statute requires that the school be authorized to confer associate degrees by the Private Occupational School Division under the provisions of Article 59, Title 12, C.R.S. The statutory exemption extends to the offering of associate degrees only. The evidence required to enable the Commission to determine that an institution so qualifies is documentation that the institution has been authorized by the Private Occupational School Division to confer associate degrees under the provision of the statute.

Definition of Institutional Status

  • Full Authorization - An institution which is institutionally accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency with an on-site review of its Colorado location(s); or
  • Provisional Authorization - Institutions, new or new to Colorado, which have been evaluated by Department staff under CCHE procedures and authorized by the Commission to enroll students, offer instruction, graduates students, and award degrees under the condition that the institution is continuously seeking and is making satisfactory progress toward accreditation; or
  • Probationary Authorization -An institution with an adverse action by its accrediting agency and/or by another governmental agency, or whose accrediting agency loses its U.S. Department of Education recognition, or is otherwise found to be out of compliance with this policy may be recommended for probation by the Department, and, if imposed by the Commission, shall remain on probation until such time the adverse action is lifted by the accrediting body or a governmental agency, or until the institution achieves accreditation by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency, verified by the Department, and acted on by the Commission; such action to include extending probation, modifying probation, revoking authorization, or other action as it deems necessary; or
  • Religious Authorization- A bona fide religious postsecondary educational institution, offering only programs which are religious in nature, which is exempt from property taxation under the laws of this state and whose degrees or diplomas have no state recognition; or
  • Authorization for a Place of Business (with no instruction) - If an institution has a place of business within Colorado but offers no instruction in the state, the institution must receive a formal exemption by the Commission and must annually renew, from the effective date of the previous exemption. The institution shall be subject to the deceptive trade practices provision as found in §23-2-104, C.R.S. Such an institution may be exempted from administrative procedures regarding accreditation and financial integrity. Closed or Defunct means institutions that either have voluntarily closed, have been de-authorized by the state, or otherwise cease to exist.