Administrative Code

Virginia Administrative Code
5/6/2021

Part I. Definitions; Prohibitions; Advertising

8VAC40-31-10. Definitions.

The following words and terms when used in this chapter shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Academic credit" means the measure of the total time commitment an average student is expected to devote to learning per week of study. Generally, one unit of credit represents a total of three hours per week of in-class and out-of-class work (Carnegie Unit of Credit). In this context, an hour is defined as 50 minutes. Emerging delivery methodologies may necessitate determining a unit of undergraduate or graduate credit with nontime-based methods. These courses shall use demonstration of competency, demonstration of proficiency, or fulfillment of learning outcomes to ensure these courses are equivalent to traditionally delivered courses.

"Academic-vocational" means a noncollege degree school that offers degree and nondegree credit courses at a site in Virginia or via telecommunications equipment located in Virginia.

"Accreditation" means a process of external quality review used by higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and educational programs for quality assurance and quality improvement. This term applies to those accrediting organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education.

"Adjunct faculty" means professional staff members of businesses, industries and other agencies and organizations who are appointed by institutions and schools on a part-time basis to carry out instructional, research or public service functions.

"Administrative capability" means a branch (i) maintains or has access to all records and accounts; (ii) has an administrator; (iii) offers courses that consist of a large number of unit subjects that comprise a program of education or a set curriculum large enough to allow pursuit on a continuing basis; and (iv) provides student services, including but not limited to financial aid, admissions, career placement assistance, or registration.

"Agent" means a person who is employed by any institution of higher education or noncollege degree school, whether such institution or school is located within or outside this Commonwealth, to act as an agent, solicitor, procurer, broker or independent contractor to procure students or enrollees for any such institution or school by solicitation in any form at any place in this Commonwealth other than the office or principal location of such institution or school.

"Avocational" means instructional programs that are not intended to prepare students for employment but are intended solely for recreation, enjoyment, personal interest, or as a hobby or courses or programs that prepare individuals to teach such pursuits.

"Branch" means an additional location, operated by a school with an approved existing site. A branch campus must have administrative capability exclusive of the main campus and adequate resources to ensure that the objectives of its programs can be met.

"Career-technical school" means a school that does not offer courses for degree credit at a site in Virginia or via telecommunication equipment located in Virginia; same as academic-vocational school.

"Certificate" means the credential awarded by a school upon the successful completion of a program that consists of one or more technical courses, usually completed in less than 26 weeks, normally with a single skill objective.

"Certification" means the process of securing authorization to operate a private or out-of-state postsecondary school or institution of higher education and/or degree, certificate, or diploma program in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"Change of ownership" means the change in power within a school. Change of ownership may include, but is not limited to, the following situations: (i) sale of the school; (ii) merger of two or more schools if one of the schools is nonexempt; or (iii) change from profit to nonprofit or collective.

"CIP code" means the six-digit number assigned to each discipline specialty in the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) taxonomy maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Clock (or contact) hour" means a minimum of 50 minutes of supervised or directed instruction and appropriate breaks.

"College" means any institution of higher education that offers degree programs.

"Conditional certification" means a status that may be granted by the council to a school certified to operate in Virginia to allow time for the correction of major deficiencies or weaknesses identified in the school's administration that are of such magnitude that, if not corrected, may result in the suspension or revocation of the school's certificate to operate. During a period of conditional certification, a school may not enroll new students or confer any degrees, diplomas, or certificates.

"Council" means the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

"Course for degree credit" means a single course whose credits are applicable to the requirements for earning a degree, diploma, or certificate.

"Course registration materials" means any official documents provided to students for the purpose of formal enrollment into the school, a specific program, or a certain course.

"Credit" means (i) the quantitative measurement assigned to a course generally stated in semester hours, quarter hours, or clock hours or (ii) the recognition awarded upon successful completion of coursework.

"Credit hour" means a unit by which a school may measure its coursework. The number of credit hours assigned to a traditionally delivered course is usually defined by a combination of the number of hours per week in class, the number of hours per week in a laboratory, and/or the number of hours devoted to externship multiplied by the number of hours in the term. One unit of credit is usually equivalent to, at a minimum, one hour of classroom study and outside preparation, two hours of laboratory experience, or three hours of internship or practicum, or a combination of the three multiplied by the number of weeks in the term. Emerging delivery methodologies may necessitate determining a unit of undergraduate or graduate credit with nontime-based methods. These courses shall use demonstration of competency, demonstration of proficiency, or fulfillment of learning outcomes to ensure these courses are equivalent to traditionally delivered courses.

"Degree" means any earned award at the associate, baccalaureate, master's, first professional, or doctoral level that represents satisfactory completion of the requirements of a program or course of study or instruction beyond the secondary school level and includes certificates and specialist degrees when such awards represent a level of educational attainment above that of the associate degree level.

"Degree program" means a curriculum or course of study that leads to a degree in a discipline or interdisciplinary specialty and normally is identified by a six-digit CIP code number.

"Diploma" means an award that represents a level of educational attainment at or below the associate degree level and that normally consists of up to (i) 1,500 clock hours, (ii) 90 quarter hours, or (iii) 60 semester hours.

"Distance education" means education that uses the Internet, one-way transmission and two-way transmission through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between student and instructor.

"Existing institution" or "existing postsecondary school" means any postsecondary school that either (i) has been in operation in Virginia for two or more calendar years as of July 1, 2004, and has been certified to operate continuously during that period or (ii) has been approved to operate as a postsecondary school in another state, is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, and is certified to operate in Virginia.

"Full-time faculty" means a person whose: (i) employment is based upon an official contract, appointment, or agreement with a school; (ii) principal employment is with that school; and (iii) major assignments are in teaching and research. A full-time administrator who teaches classes incidental to administrative duties is not a full-time faculty member.

"Graduate credit hours" means credits hours earned for successful completion of courses beyond the baccalaureate level, generally awarded at the 500 series and above.

"Gross tuition collected" means all fees collected or received on either a cash or accrual accounting method basis for all instructional programs or courses, except for nonrefundable registration and application fees and charges for materials, supplies, and books that have been purchased by, and are the property of, the student.

"In-state institution" means an institution of higher education that is formed, chartered or established within Virginia. An out-of-state institution shall be deemed an in-state institution for the purposes of certification as a degree-granting institution if (i) the institution has no instructional campus in the jurisdiction in which it was formed, chartered, established, or incorporated and (ii) the institution produces clear and convincing evidence that its main or principal campus is located in Virginia.

"Institution of higher education" or "institution" means any person, firm, corporation, association, agency, institute, trust, or other entity of any nature whatsoever offering education beyond the secondary school level that has received certification from the council and either: (i) offers courses or programs of study or instruction that lead to, or that may reasonably be understood to be applicable to, a degree; (ii) operates a facility as a college or university or other entity of whatever kind that offers degrees or other indicia of level of educational attainment beyond the secondary school level; (iii) uses the term "college" or "university," or words of like meaning, in its name or in any manner in connection with its academic affairs or business; or (iv) offers approved courses of degree credit or programs of study leading to a degree or offers degrees either at a site in Virginia or via telecommunications equipment located within Virginia.

"Instructional faculty" means a person employed by a school who is engaged in instructional, research, or related activities.

"Instructional site" means a location in Virginia where a postsecondary school (i) offers one or more courses on an established schedule and (ii) lacks administrative capability.

"Multistate compact" means any agreement involving two or more states to offer jointly postsecondary educational opportunities, pursuant to policies and procedures set forth by such agreement and approved by council.

"New institution" or "new postsecondary school" means any postsecondary school that seeks certification and has been in operation in Virginia for less than two calendar years as of July 1, 2004, and has neither operated in another state as a postsecondary institution nor has been approved to operate in another state as a postsecondary institution.

"Noncollege degree school" means any postsecondary school that offers courses or programs of study that do not lead to an associate or higher level degree at a site in Virginia or via telecommunications equipment located within Virginia. Such schools may be academic-career-technical or career-technical.

"Out-of-state institution" means an institution of higher education that is formed, chartered, established or incorporated outside Virginia.

"Part-time faculty" means a person whose: (i) annual employment is based upon an official contract, appointment, or agreement with a school and (ii) courseload of teaching assignments is of lesser quantity than that expected of a full-time faculty member and/or is of lesser quantity than the school's definition of a full load of courses.

"Postsecondary education" means the provision of formal instructional programs with a curriculum designed primarily for students who have completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent or who are beyond the age of compulsory high school attendance. It includes programs of an academic, career-technical, and continuing professional education purpose, and excludes avocational and adult basic education programs.

"Postsecondary education activities" means researching, funding, designing, and/or conducting instructional programs, classes, or research opportunities, designed primarily for students who have completed the requirements for a high school diploma or its equivalent or who are beyond the age of compulsory high school attendance.

"Postsecondary school" or "school" means any entity offering formal instructional programs with a curriculum designed primarily for students who have completed the requirements for a high school diploma or its equivalent or who are beyond the age of compulsory high school attendance, and for which tuition or a fee is charged. Such schools include programs of academic, career-technical, and continuing professional education, and exclude avocational and adult basic education programs. For the purposes of this chapter, a "postsecondary school" shall be classified as either an institution of higher education as defined in this section or a noncollege degree school, as defined in this section.

"Private postsecondary career school" means any for-profit or nonprofit postsecondary career entity maintaining a physical presence in Virginia providing education or training for tuition or a fee that (i) augments a person's occupational skills; (ii) provides a certification; or (iii) fulfills a training or education requirement in one's employment, career, trade, profession, or occupation. Any entity that offers programs beyond the secondary school level, including programs using alternate modes of delivery, shall be included in this definition so long as tuition and fees from such programs constitute any part of its revenue.

"Program" means a curriculum or course of study in a discipline or interdisciplinary area that leads to a degree, certificate, or diploma.

"Program area" means a general group of disciplines in which one or more degree programs, certificates, or diplomas may be offered.

"Program of study" means a curriculum of two or more courses that is intended or understood to lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate. It may include all or some of the courses required for completion of a degree program.

"Provisional certification" means a preliminary approval status granted by the council to a new school applicant that has demonstrated substantial compliance with the provisions of this chapter pursuant to § 23-276 of the Code of Virginia. Such a status may include any conditions imposed by the council to ensure compliance with the provisions of this chapter. The provisionally certified school must demonstrate compliance with all conditions within one calendar year of the initial grant of provisional certification.

"Surety instrument" means a surety bond or a clean irrevocable letter of credit issued by a surety company or banking institution authorized to transact business in Virginia adequate to provide refunds to students for the unearned non-Title IV portion of tuition and fees for any given semester, quarter or term and to cover the administrative cost associated with filing a claim against the instrument.

"Teach-out agreement" means the process whereby a closed or closing school undertakes to fulfill its educational and contractual obligations to currently enrolled students.

"Telecommunications activity" means any course offered by a postsecondary school or consortium of postsecondary schools where the primary mode of instructional delivery is by television, videocassette or disc, film, radio, computer, or other telecommunications devices.

"Unearned tuition" means the portion of tuition charges billed to the student but not yet earned by the institution; the unearned tuition represents future educational services to be rendered to presently enrolled students.

"University" means any institution offering programs leading to degrees or degree credit beyond the baccalaureate level.

"Vocational" means a noncollege degree school that offers only noncollege credit courses. Such schools have programs of instruction offering a sequence of courses that are directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Vocational education shall not include instructional programs intended solely for recreation, enjoyment, personal interest, or as a hobby, or courses or programs that prepare individuals to teach such pursuits.

Statutory Authority

§ 23-276.3 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 22, Issue 23, eff. August 24, 2006; amended, Virginia Register Volume 30, Issue 8, eff. February 3, 2014.

8VAC40-31-20. Prohibited acts.

A. Except as in accordance with this chapter, no person or other entity shall sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, or attempt to sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, any degree, degree credit, diploma, or certificate.

B. No person or other entity shall use or attempt to use in connection with any business, trade, profession, or occupation any degree or certification of degree or degree credit, including but not limited to a transcript of coursework that has knowingly been fraudulently issued, obtained, forged, or materially altered.

C. Unless exempted from the provisions of this chapter pursuant to § 23-276.2 of the Code of Virginia, no person, firm, or school may represent that credits earned at or granted by that person, firm, or school are applicable for credit toward a degree, except under such conditions and in a manner specified and approved by the council in accordance with this chapter.

D. Without prior certification, no person or other entity subject to the provisions of this chapter shall use in any manner within the Commonwealth of Virginia the term "college" or "university" or abbreviations or words of similar meaning in its name or in any manner in connection with its academic affairs or business or in any literature, catalog, pamphlet, or descriptive materials.

1. This subsection shall not apply to any person or other entity that (i) used the term "college" or "university" openly and conspicuously in its title within the Commonwealth prior to July 1, 1970; (ii) was granted authority to operate in Virginia by the council between July 1, 1970, and July 1, 2002, and maintains valid authority to so operate in Virginia after July 1, 2002; (iii) was exempted from the provisions of Chapter 21 (§ 23-265 et seq.) of Title 23 of the Code of Virginia as such law was in effect prior to July 1, 2002; or (iv) was authorized by the council to use a name prior to a request for certification.

2. For only as long as the provisions of Item 158 D of Chapter 912 of the 1996 Acts of Assembly shall be in effect, this subsection shall not apply to an individual proprietorship, association, co-partnership or corporation that uses the words "college" or "university" in its training programs solely for its employees or customers, that does not offer degree-granting programs, and whose name includes the word "college" or "university" in a context from which it is clear that such entity is not an educational school.

E. The council may refuse to certify school names and terms that have the potential to mislead the general public about the school's affiliation or association with any state-supported institution of higher education in Virginia. Terms such as, but not limited to, "public university," "public college," or "community college" may be protected from use by private institutions of higher education.

Statutory Authority

§ 23-276.3 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 22, Issue 23, eff. August 24, 2006.

8VAC40-31-30. Advertisements, announcements, and other promotional materials.

A. A school certified to operate by the council in accordance with this chapter shall include in any print and electronic catalogs (i) a clear statement that the council has certified the school to operate in Virginia and (ii) a complete address of the main campus and all branch locations within Virginia.

B. A school certified to operate by council in accordance with this chapter shall include in all publicity, advertisement, and promotional materials distributed to current or prospective students (i) a clear statement that the council has certified the school to operate in Virginia, (ii) the school's complete name as indicated on the certificate to operate, and (iii) the address of at least one branch campus located in Virginia.

C. A school with its main campus not located in Virginia that has a physical presence in Virginia shall state in its print and electronic catalog distributed in Virginia that:

1. Each course or degree, diploma, or certificate program offered in Virginia is approved by the governing body of the school; and

2. The appropriate state agency, if any, in the state where the main campus of the school is located has granted whatever approval may be necessary for the school to:

a. Offer courses or degree, diploma, or certificate programs at the level for which credit is being awarded for those courses or programs in Virginia; and

b. Ensure that any credit earned for coursework offered by the school in Virginia may be transferred to another of the school's locations outside Virginia as part of an existing degree, diploma, or certificate program offered by the school.

D. No advertisement, announcement, or any other material produced by or on behalf of a postsecondary school shall in any way indicate that the school is supervised, recommended, endorsed, or accredited by the Commonwealth of Virginia, by the State Council of Higher Education, or by any other state agency in Virginia.

Statutory Authority

§ 23-276.3 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 22, Issue 23, eff. August 24, 2006; amended, Virginia Register Volume 30, Issue 8, eff. February 3, 2014.

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