How to Start a Technical School
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Technical schools and colleges are very important parts of the educational system in America. Their main objective is to train and prepare talented students for a wide variety of careers outside of academia. Similar to community colleges, they generally do not offer degrees above the Associate's level. Unlike community colleges, they do offer an array of certificates for entry-level positions in various career fields. Beginning a school is very similar to starting a business, as you will need a proposal, startup funds and future projections to be successful.
Write a School Proposal
Research your intended school. Before you begin your proposal, scour your community, city and even county for research materials. When you start writing you should be able to answer the following questions: What other technical schools are in your area? How and why is yours different? What is the purpose of your school? What ideas do you have for proposed programs and degree plans?
Write a school proposal or business plan. Just like any other business venture, you need a map of where you're going before you begin. Your business plan will have several distinct parts: Summary (what will the plan entail), School Summary (what is the purpose and mission of your school?), Market Analysis (Who are your competitors? How is your school different?), Management & Operational Plan (Where will you host your students? Who will manage the financial and academic pursuits of the school?), Campus Plan (Details about your campus), Financial Plan (How will the school earn money? Will it be a for-profit or nonprofit institution?), Supporting Documents (anything that is not covered above).
Get money for your school. Take your business plan to banks, credit unions, private investors or benefactors and even the government to attempt to secure funds for your school. Banks and credit unions will probably provide the bulk of your funding, but some nonprofits, individuals and government loans or grants may also be able to provide assistance. IFF Loans are a great source of funding for non-profit schools. If you can prove that your school will serve low-income communities, you may be eligible for the CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions) Fund loan from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Start Your Technical School
Find out about regulations. The federal government, along with local governments, regulates degree or certificate-granting schools of all kind, so be sure to check with the U.S. Department of Education and your state's education agency to find out about compliance.
Design your programs. Depending on what degrees and certificates you want to offer, you will need to structure your student graduation plans. Some certificates require a certain number of classroom hours, while most degree plans require a certain number of credits. Decide how many hours or credits students will need to graduate and which courses will be offered each quarter, semester and school year.
Hire faculty and staff. The professors, deans, counselors and board members that serve your school will double as the face of the school, at least until students begin graduating. Hire talented, motivated and experienced personnel. The minimum staff should include a President, Academic Dean, Academic Counselors/Advisors, Financial Aid representatives and Recruiters/Admissions Personnel. If your school will be a nonprofit, also consider appointing a Board of Directors to make decisions about the school and help to raise money.
Work toward academic accreditation. Two main organizations grant accreditation to technical schools: ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges) and ACICS (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools). Both of those accrediting bodies require that you are in federal and local compliance, that you are successfully preparing students for their career and that you have operated for at least two years. Because you cannot be accredited before you graduate at least one student, it is not a goal that you can accomplish immediately.
Whitney Elaine is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C. area. Besides contributing to Web sites like BusinessWeek.com, AOL and Parents.com, she's worked for magazines like "Essence," "Heart & Soul" and "Sister 2 Sister." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in print/online journalism from Howard University and has been writing for since 2004.