Registration Exemptions

What schools are not required to register in order to operate in Iowa or offer programs to Iowans?

Schools Operating in Iowa

Schools described below that operate from a physical location in Iowa are not required to register under Iowa Code Section 261B.11(1) and (2). These schools must file an application with Iowa College Aid requesting authorization to operate in Iowa, demonstrating eligibility to claim an exemption from registration and substantiating compliance with student consumer protections. Applications for authorization must be renewed every two years, and there is no application fee due to Iowa College Aid.  

  • Colleges and universities authorized by the state of Iowa to grant degrees, i.e., Iowa’s public community colleges and Regent Universities.

  • Schools and educational programs conducted by religious organizations solely for religious instruction of leadership practitioners of the religious organization.

  • Iowa’s licensed cosmetology and barbering schools.

  • Private schools that meet the institutional eligibility criteria for the Iowa Tuition Grant Program.

  • Schools offering nondegree specialty career and technical training programs.

  • Iowa schools that are affiliated with an Iowa health care system and offer a postsecondary health care program that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education. 

  • Iowa massage therapy schools that have curriculum approval from the Iowa Board of Massage Therapy and employ instructors who are licensed massage therapists.

Schools Operating Out-of-State Who Offer Iowans Distance Education

Unaccredited Degree Granting - If your school grants degrees but does not have institutional accreditation from an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, your school is prohibited from offering any portion of your programs in Iowa or to Iowans. See Iowa Code Section 261B.13.

A limited exception to this prohibition exists for a school of religious study that is not accredited*.  See below for information about meeting the conditions for a school of religious study exemption.

Accredited Degree Granting - If your accredited school 1) does not participate in SARA; 2) wishes to offer 100% distance education programs to Iowa residents; and 3) your distance education programs and related operational activities meet none of the conditions for Registration, then Iowa College Aid may authorize your school to offer your programs to Iowans without registration. 

A school that believes it may be eligible to offer its distance education programs without registration must contact the Postsecondary Authorization Team. The school should be prepared to provide detailed information sufficient for staff to render a written determination as to whether the school must apply for formal registration as a distance education provider.  

A school that receives a written determination that it need not register for distance education must contact Iowa College Aid immediately for re-evaluation if its programmatic or operational activities change.

Hybrid - Iowa College Aid does not regulate a program that is offered in part via distance education and includes any mandatory, out-of-state, on-campus attendance requirement. These activities include but are not necessarily limited to an on-campus residency, clinical, immersion, orientation, or dissertation defense.

Nondegree Granting - If your school solely offers vocational, nondegree courses or programs, the school need not be accredited*. Contact the Postsecondary Authorization Team to provide detailed information sufficient for staff to render a written determination as to whether the school is authorized to offer its courses or programs to Iowans.  

Schools of Religious Study - Schools conducted by religious organizations solely for the religious instruction of leadership practitioners of that religious organization may be authorized in Iowa if the school is not accredited*. See Iowa Code Section 261B.11(1)(h). This authorization requires a school to substantiate:

  • The school exclusively offers programs with a religious focus (e.g.,pastoral leadership, religious education, ministry, religious missions, and church planting).
  • The school is affiliated with, sponsored or otherwise formally acknowledged by a specific, well-organized religious organization with sufficient infrastructure to provide ample leadership opportunities for the school's graduates.
  • The school confines its enrollment to persons who are, or who aspire to be, leadership practitioners of the specific religious organization with which the school is affiliated. 

Which additional requirements apply to exempt schools?

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 Responsibility, Tuition Refund Policy, and Disclosures.

Who do I contact?

For further information, contact the Postsecondary Authorization Team


*Accredited means the school or other entity is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.