On March 23, 2012, Sen. Rollie Heath and Rep. Tom Massey introduced SB 12-164 – Concerning the Operation of Private Postsecondary Institutions in Colorado. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.
The bill makes several changes to the existing statutes concerning authorization of private colleges and universities and seminaries and bible colleges in the state, including changing the term “bible college” to “religious training institution.” The changes generally clarify the types of institutions that are subject to authorization and specifically require the Colorado commission on higher education and the department of higher education to set procedures for authorizing, renewing, and revoking the authorizations for private institutions. The commission must also set the amount of the fees that a private institution pays for the administration of the authorization process, including a separate fee if a private institution seeks approval of an educator preparation program. Each private institution must also report specified student information.
Each private institution must obtain authorization for each campus, branch, or site that is separately accredited and operates in Colorado. Authorizations for private colleges and universities are based on the institution’s accreditation and are subject to renewal every 3 years or on the same schedule that applies for renewing the institution’s accreditation, whichever is longer. Authorizations for seminaries and religious training institutions are based on whether the institution continues to meet the definition for seminary or religious training institution. The bill clarifies the process and standards for renewing authorizations and the conditions and procedures under which the commission may revoke a private institution’s authorization or place the authorization on probationary status.
Under current law, a private institution that ceases operations must tell the department where it will store its records. The bill requires the private institution to turn its records over to the department, authorizes the commission to seek a court order to seize the records in certain circumstances, and makes the records subject to the open records statutes. The department must keep the records for specified periods.
Private colleges or universities that meet specified criteria are not required to file a surety or to otherwise demonstrate financial integrity. Each private college or university that does not meet the criteria must demonstrate financial integrity based on evidence that it meets other criteria. If the private college or university cannot demonstrate financial integrity, it must post surety in a specified amount, which surety may be in the form of a bond, that the commission can use to reimburse students for a loss of tuition or fees or to provide services if the institution ceases to operate in Colorado or a student files a claim against the institution. If a private college or university that does not post surety ceases operations in the state, the attorney general may file a claim on behalf of students to recover any unearned, prepaid tuition.
The department must maintain a list of authorized private institutions and establish a process for reviewing and acting on complaints against a private institution. The commission may negotiate reciprocal agreements with other states to assist in implementing authorizations for private institutions.
The bill changes the terms of members appointed to the private occupational schools board so that fewer members will be appointed at one time. The current law authorizes a student enrolled in a private occupational school to file with the board a complaint against the school. Under the bill, the student must first exhaust any complaint procedures that the school has in place. Introduced on March 23, the bill is assigned to the Education Committee.
Summaries of other featured bills can be found here.