Applying for Maryland Higher Education Commission

Approval to Operate a Private Career School in Maryland

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a "private career school" (PCS)?

 

In brief, private career schools offer career training to adults. PCS are also variously known as trade or technical schools or occupational training schools. The legal definition of a private career school in Maryland is a privately owned and operated institution of postsecondary education, other than an institution of higher education, that furnishes or offers to furnish programs, whether requiring a payment or a fee, for the purpose of training, retraining, or upgrading individuals for gainful employment as skilled or semiskilled workers or technicians in recognized occupations or in new and emerging occupations. (See Approved PCS​ for information about currently approved schools.)​​​​

Do I need to become a PCS?

 

Generally, yes. However, not all educational institutions or training providers are required to have Commission approval to operate in Maryland. Some education or training offered by churches or religious institutions, as well as various workshops or seminars, continuing education programs, apprenticeships, and instruction offered by businesses for the exclusive use of their employees might not be subject to Commission approval.

To determine whether Commission approval is required for your education or training to be offered in Maryland, complete and submit this questionnaire and program description form according to the instructions: Private Career School Training Questionnaire (MS Word Document Form) and Private Career School Training Program Description Form (MS Word Document Form)​.

Training providers offering training to the public who are neither approved nor have received notice otherwise from the Commission, will be directed to cease and desist operation or be subject to legal action including closure and fines or both.​​

What are the considerations for becoming a PCS?

 

Please be aware that the application procedure to become approved to operate a private career school in Maryland and to operate a successful business venture requires resources, planning, and commitment. For those not experienced with starting a business or a school, developing a comprehensive, written business plan before completing the application is recommended. The Small Business Administration provides a number of useful resources such as the Small Business Readiness Assessment Tool​ to help you determine if you are ready to start a small business.

Sometimes applicants are so focused on the requirements of the application that they fail to think through the actual demands of running the school. Keep in mind that a successful school has strong plans for student record keeping including tracking students’ grades and daily attendance, placement, managing personnel including making sure that classes always have qualified instructors in place, and having a sound financial plan to start a school when expenses are high and income is not yet established.​​

What is the process for becoming a PCS?

 

Generally, one must submit a complete ap​plication (including a financial guarantee, detailed training curriculum, detailed school catalog, enrollment agreement, student transcript), application fee, Student Guarantee Fund payment, copy of facility lease and related permits, and instructor and staff personnel forms.

  1. Applications are reviewed by Commission staff within 30 days of receipt and returned if any part of the application is found to be incomplete;
  2. Once the curricular materials are found to be complete, they are typically reviewed by independent subject matter experts and noted deficiencies are addressed by the applicant;
  3. A site visit of the training facility is required to ensure that it and any related equipment meet minimum requirements;
  4. The Secretary’s Advisory Council (SAC) must review the completed application and make recommendation to the Secretary of Higher Education. The SAC meets on an ad hoc basis and no more than once a month.
  5. If the SAC recommends approval, the application is forwarded to the Secretary of Higher Education for determination as to whether a certificate of approval will be issued.

(See TIPS​ for additional information)​​

Can I open a school anywhere in the State?

 

The need for graduates of your occupational training program must be evidenced according to various factors including labor market data, the number of local employers, their annual projected job openings, and the existence of other local providers of the training, which may include the employers, existing private career schools, community colleges, and public and private four-year collegiate institutions.

In some locations, existing training providers may already be supplying sufficient numbers of graduates for an occupation. In such situations, there would be no need for another provider for the occupation as the market is already saturated and graduates would likely not be able to obtain training-related employment.​​​

What are the more critical components of the PCS application?

 

The critical components of the application which require a great deal of careful planning are:

  • The CURRICULUM including detailed daily lesson plans, outline, and full description of the delivery of the training program to students.
  • The CATALOG including admission requirements, attendance, satisfactory progress and grading policies.
  • The FACILITY including the lease, permits and inspections, liability and workers' compensation insuran
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Can I get interim approval to operate a new private career school?

 

In general, interim approval may only be given in the event of the death of an already MHEC-approved school certificate holder.​​​​​

What does it cost to open a private career school?

 

There are several initial cost considerations when deciding whether to apply for approval to open a Private Career School.

  • Application fee: A minimum cost of $300 dependent upon the number of programs being proposed. This fee is nonrefundable.
  • Guaranty Student Tuition Fund payment: A minimum cost of $2,500 dependent upon the planned enrollment of the proposed school.
  • Financial Guarantee: There will be costs involved when obtaining a performance bond or letter-of-credit to cover the school’s financial guarantee.
  • Facility: Costs may include the lease or purchase of a facility, initial utility fees, construction or build-out costs, county or city permits and inspections.
  • Equipment: Sufficient furniture and equipment for offices, classrooms and laboratories.
  • Other: Other expenses may include books; supplies; liability and workers’ compensation insurance; possible fees from consultants, accountants and attorneys; and corporation or business registration. Once the school is approved to operate in the State, there will be all of the usual ongoing expenses of running a business (salaries/benefits, utilities, rent/mortgage, supplies, taxes, etc.).
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Before completing an application for approval of a new private career school, view all PROGRAM ALERTS.

New Private Career School Application

Download the Application for Initial Approval to Operate a Private Career School (PDFMS Word).  This application is NOT for real estate schools.

For real estate school information, click here: REAL ESTATE NEW SCHOOL APPLICATION INFORMATION.

For Non-Profit school information, download the Application for Initial Approval to Operate A Non-Profit Private Career School Charging No Tuition ( PDF | MS Word​). This application is NOT for real estate schools. 

For regulatory requirements and considerations for offering a program in-part or in-whole via distance education, click HERE.

Click HERE to view a PDF PowerPoint slide-show about becoming a Private Career School in Maryland.​

For additional assistance and resources for completing the application, please refer to the following documents:​​

Tips About the Application Process

2 Parts

The application is in two parts.

Part I which includes the proposed curriculum, school policies, and design of the school may be submitted for initial review in advance of Part II.

Part II requires the applicant to make substantial expenditures for facilities, equipment, and the hiring of school personnel. Both parts of the application must be complete and in compliance with minimum standards before approval to operate maybe granted.

Financial Resources/Financial Guarantee

An applicant must demonstrate that there are sufficient financial resources to operate a school.

A new school may choose to provide from either of the following two options if the school collects tuition in multiple installments from or on behalf of students:

  • Financial guarantee in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit or a renewable performance bond that is sufficient to comer 100% of the tuition liability at maximum capacity of the proposed school at any given time,

    OR

  • Financial statement that is reviewed or audited by an independent certified public accountant, and
  • Financial guarantee in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit or a renewable performance bond that is sufficient to cover 50% of the tuition liability of the proposed school unless the Secretary determines that financial conditions warrant a greater amount.

A new school that does not collect tuition in multiple installments from or on behalf of its students must provide:

  • Financial guarantee in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit or a renewable performance bond that is sufficient to comer 100% of the tuition liability at maximum capacity of the proposed school at any given time.
Market Demand

Evidence is required to substantiate that a labor market demand exists in Maryland for proposed program(s) and that the proposed program(s) prepare students to meet this demand.

General Market Demand Information

Sample Market/Employer Demand Survey (PDF)

Downloadable Market Survey Form (MS Word Electronic Form)​

Your Audience

When the application is received, it is assigned to a staff member who reviews it as to its completeness. The curriculum component of the application is forwarded for review to a curriculum consultant or, in the case of a licensed occupation, to the applicable licensing board. Once all issues are resolved and the application is in compliance with minimum standards, it is presented to the Secretary’s Advisory Council for its review and recommendation to the Secretary. The Secretary of Higher Education makes the final determination as to the approval of the application.

Time Line

The entire application process generally requires several months to complete.

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