Starting your own college takes lots of time, support and, especially, deep pockets. For example, the American billionaire John D. Rockefeller endowed the University of Chicago, Spelman College, and Rockefeller University. Even without Rockefeller's money, however, following these steps will get you on the road to starting your own learning institution and earning accreditation for it.
Determine what type of college you want to open. For example, will it be a college of nursing or a music college? Create a list of programs that your college will provide. For example, if you open a college of nursing, you can provide a certified nursing assistant training program and CPR courses.
Form a small committee of supporters to help begin the initial planning and organization of the new college. This committee should include members of the legal, business, and financial community, as well as members specific to the field of study in which your college will focus.
File for incorporation and tax exemption status, if you intend for your college to be nonprofit. You can contact your Secretary of State office (see reference) for information about fees and processes associated with filling incorporation forms in your specific state. Additionally, contact the Internal Revenue Service for information about applying for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status (see reference). Having a lawyer and accountant to help you prepare and submit the appropriate forms for incorporation and tax exemption can simplify the process.
Write a business plan. Within this plan, identify key staff members, such as the college’s president, and their job descriptions. Software, such as Business Plan Pro, or websites such as Bplans.com (see resource) can help you to create a detailed business plan.
Create a budget plan that includes a operating budget (for building expenses and purchase of educational materials) and capital budget (for paying taxes and providing benefits to your employees). Having a professional accountant with expertise in this area to help you can simplify the process.
Find a location. Decide if you want to purchase an existing building or build a new facility. Consider whether the location is in a safe and convenient location, with adequate parking and floor space. Hire an architect and/or contractor to help you determine the proper facility location.
Identify the appropriate accrediting body for your college’s programs. Each field of study has its own accrediting organization. For example, a nursing college can be accredited by several organizations such as The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) or The Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Investigate the requirements as described by the accrediting organization. This information can be found on the organization’s website or by contacting the organization’s office. For example, many accreditation organizations require that your college submit to an in-person evaluation of your facility, staff, and methods of operation, and require that your college maintain certain student-to-instructor ratios or require that a certain percentage of your instructors have a master’s degree or higher.
Organize an accreditation committee. These individuals will ensure that your college is preparing for accreditation. They will also ensure that your college continues to adhere to the regulations of your accrediting body.
Your tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status is the vital first step in soliciting contributions. The more prestigious accrediting organizations will have the more rigorous requirements necessary to earn their seal of accreditation.