Code of the District of Columbia

§ 38–1309. Postsecondary educational institution; requirements.

(a) No person or postsecondary educational institution incorporated in the District of Columbia or outside of the District of Columbia shall operate a postsecondary educational institution in the District of Columbia, offer postsecondary education, have the power to grant or confer or offer to grant or confer a postsecondary degree or a diploma or certificate, offer postsecondary courses for credit, or issue transcripts or other documents to reflect credit toward a postsecondary degree, diploma or certificate, unless:

(1) The institution is granted a license to do so from the Commission or granted an exemption by the Commission in accordance with this chapter; and

(2) The institution is either organized or chartered in the District of Columbia and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered, or organized or chartered outside the District of Columbia and is registered as a foreign corporation pursuant to Chapter 1 of Title 29, and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered, or is otherwise properly authorized to do business in the District of Columbia and operates, keeps, or maintains a facility in the District through which educational instruction is offered.

(a-1) Repealed.

(b) No person shall state or imply that its educational program or course of instruction is approved for veteran’s training in the District by the District of Columbia State Approving Agency or by the United States Veterans Administration, unless that person has obtained proper approval from the commission.

(c) Except as provided for in this chapter, no person shall sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, or attempt to sell, barter, or exchange for any consideration, a degree, diploma, or certificate.

(c-1)(1) No educational institution licensed by the Commission under the provisions of this chapter shall use as its title, in whole or in part, the words United States, federal, American, national, or civil service, or any other words which might reasonably imply an official connection with the government of the United States, or any of its departments, bureaus, or agencies, or of the government of the District of Columbia, nor shall any such institutions advertise or claim the power to issue degrees under the authority of Congress or otherwise than under the authority of the license granted to them by the Commission as hereinbefore provided. The prohibition in this section contained shall be deemed to include and is hereby declared applicable to any individual or individuals, association, or incorporation outside of the District of Columbia which shall undertake to do business in the District of Columbia or to confer degrees or certificates therein; provided, that no institution, incorporated prior to April 16, 1934, under the provisions of this subchapter, and carrying on its work exclusively in any foreign country with the consent and approval of the government thereof, shall if otherwise entitled to be licensed by the Commission, be denied the same solely because of the inclusion in its name and as descriptive of its origin of any of the specific words the use of which is by this section forbidden to incorporations under the provisions of this subchapter.

(2) The Commission may, for good cause shown, waive the prohibition of this section for any nonprofit educational institution incorporated and licensed in any jurisdiction if:

(A) The institution clearly indicates to the Commission’s satisfaction that it is not and does not hold itself out as or affiliated with an institution of the District of Columbia government or the federal government;

(B) The institution provides statements in a conspicuous place in all of its publications, advertising, and student contracts that the institution is not affiliated with the federal or District government;

(C) The institution is accredited by an accrediting association recognized by the United States Secretary of Education; and

(D) The institution otherwise meets all applicable licensing requirements.

(3) Paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to a postsecondary educational institution that provides degree-granting or non-degree-granting online instruction to residents of the District through an online presence and that is authorized to operate in the District pursuant to a reciprocity agreement.

(d) The Commission, before granting any license, may require satisfactory evidence:

(1) That, in the case of an individual, unincorporated group of individuals, or incorporated institution, the individual, a majority of the group, or a majority of the trustees, directors, or managers of the incorporated institution are persons of good repute and qualified to conduct an institution of learning.

(2) Repealed.

(e) No degree shall be granted in medicine or any healing art, or in dentistry, for study pursued or work done solely through online instruction.


(Apr. 6, 1977, D.C. Law 1-104, § 9; as added Mar. 16, 1989, D.C. Law 7-217, § 2(h), 36 DCR 523; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 29(a), 40 DCR 6311; Aug. 16, 2008, D.C. Law 17-219, § 4010(b), 55 DCR 7598; Mar. 5, 2013, D.C. Law 19-210, § 3, 59 DCR 13171; Feb. 27, 2016, D.C. Law 21-74, § 2(g), 63 DCR 257; Oct. 8, 2016, D.C. Law 21-160, § 4102(d), 63 DCR 10775.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-1609.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-219 rewrote subsec. (a)(2), which had read as follows: “(2) The institution is either organized or chartered in the District of Columbia, or organized or chartered outside of the District of Columbia and is registered as a foreign corporation pursuant to § 29-101.99, or § 29-301.64, or is otherwise properly authorized to do business in the District of Columbia.”

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-210 added (c-1).

The 2016 amendment by D.C. Law 21-74 substituted “pursuant to Chapter 1 of Title 29” for “pursuant to § 29-101.99 or § 29-301.64” in (a)(2); added (a-1); substituted “Commission” for “Education Licensure Commission ('Commission')” in (c-1)(1); repealed (d)(2) and made a related change; and substituted “done solely through online instruction” for “done by correspondence” in (e).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of Higher Education Licensure Commission Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-367, Apr. 27, 2016, 63 DCR 6842).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of the Education Licensure Commission Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-529, Dec. 19, 2014, 62 DCR 4, 20 STAT 4449).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(g) of the Higher Education Licensure Commission Emergency Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-158, Oct. 16, 2015, 62 DCR 13715).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(g) of the Higher Education Licensure Commission Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-284, Jan. 27, 2016, 63 DCR 1188).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) addition of a new section, see § 2(e) of Higher Education Licensure Commission Clarification Temporary Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Law 21-127, July 1, 2016, 63 DCR 7102).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of Higher Education Licensure Commission Clarification Temporary Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Law 21-127, July 1, 2016, 63 DCR 7102).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of the Education Licensure Commission Temporary Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Law 20-239, March 13, 2015, 62 DCR 1329).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(g) of the Higher Education Licensure Commission Temporary Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Law 21-51, Jan. 9, 2016, 62 DCR 13983).

Editor's Notes

Application of Law 19-210. Section 7 of D.C. Law 19-210 provided that the act shall apply as of January 1, 2012.