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Private Business & Vocational School FAQs

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About Private Business & Vocational School (PBVS)

On February 1, 2012, the oversight of Private Business and Vocational Schools was transferred from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) pursuant to the Private Business and Vocational Schools Act of 2012 (Public Act 97-650). This Act is available as a pdf or the statute (105 ILCS 426) is viewable on the Illinois General Assembly website . The PBVS Administrative Rules (pdf) were adopted by the Board adopted on December 12, 2017 and then effective on December 19, 2017.

What is a private business and vocational school (PBVS)?

A private business and vocational school is any entity offering programs and/or courses in Illinois which prepares individuals for a trade, occupation, vocation, profession; or improves, enhances or adds to skills and abilities related to occupational/career opportunities.

Select the following link to view the directory of approved PBVS institutions.
Approved School Directory

When is a school required to submit an application to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)?

An entity is required to submit an application to IBHE relative to the PBVS Act of 2012 when seeking to operate in Illinois, offer programs/courses of study in Illinois, add an extension site, change ownership of the institution, relocate the main campus, make changes to a program or the institution, or to be declared exempt from IBHE oversight.

Link to PBVS Applications page

Please note that the Administrative Rules (pdf) have been updated, effective December 19, 2017. Please familiarize yourself with these updates, as well as the changes in the fee schedule (pdf)

FAQ's About Private Business & Vocational School (PBVS)

Is my institution exempt from PBVS Division oversight?

The PBVS Act of 2012 (Section 30) and the Administrative Rules (Section 1095.20) detail the types of institutions and/or programs which are exempt. If you believe your institution qualifies for an exemption, the Exemption Application must be completed and submitted for review. An analyst reviews and analyzes the submitted information to determine if the request is approved or denied.

Note: Denial of an Exemption Application may result in the requirement to submit Permit of Approval and New Program of Study applications.

Our institution is interested in seeking approval to offer a degree program(s). What are the next steps?

Institutions desiring to offer a degree program in Illinois must have IBHE approval to operate and grant degrees under the Private College Act of 1945 and the Academic Degree Act of 1961. The degree-granting approval process is overseen by a separate division of IBHE. Information on the degree-granting process can be located at the following link:

How do I submit an application?

Applicants will need to access the online application system and register their institution - Once registered, the system will allow for the application process to begin. Unapproved schools will need to submit a complete Permit of Approval application first, then follow with a New Program of Study application for each program and stand-alone course the institution wishes to offer.

Note: New Program applications that list more than one program will be rejected.

Note: Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

If I provided an explanation in the narrative answer portion to a question, do I have to submit the additional tables asking for similar information?

Yes. All questions and related supplemental documentation are required. Referencing information located in other parts of the application or in other supplemental material is not acceptable.

What if the question on the application form does not apply to our institution or program?

Simply explain why it is not applicable. If the question is left blank, the analyst does not know if it does not apply to the institution or if the question was overlooked. By explaining that the question does not apply, you may avoid a technical question during the review. Generally, the majority of the application questions do apply to all institutions, but there are a few circumstances where a question may not apply. Based on the explanation, the analyst can determine the applicability of the question to the specific institution.

What is the best way to complete the application and all of the attachments?

Once the institution is registered, there are two options:

  1. Simply fill out the information in the online system. You will have the option to save work and return to it later, if needed.

  2. Download the application from the online system and complete it. You will be able to upload the documents to complete the application process. Do not change the application format. Changing the format will result in the application not uploading correctly.

Once successfully submitted, the applicant will receive an emailed invoice. Return the invoice and payment (check, cashier’s check, or money order) via USPS mail.

Note: Applications are considered to be “in process” until they’re complete. Completion includes receipt of the fees by IBHE. Only completed applications will be added to the application queue to be assigned to an analyst.

How do I determine the amount of fees I need to submit?

Application fees are based on total institution size for established institutions and projected institution size for brand new institutions. The fees associated with each type of application can be found in the PBVS Act of 2012, Administrative Rules, and on the IBHE website,, as well as on the application itself.

Can I get a reduction in the application fees?

No, each application has a fee associated with it, with the one exception of the Application to Request Program and/or Institutional Changes in which the institution’s request is to drop or cancel an approved program from its program inventory. There is no provision in statute or rule to lessen or waive fees for an institution.

Once I start my application (whether materials are uploaded or completed online), will that hold my place in the queue until the application is completed?

No. Applications are released to the queue for review only once they’ve been completed and the fees have been received. An incomplete application is not a place-holder in the system.

When is my renewal application due?

If your permit of approval expires on June 30 or August 30, your renewal application is due April 25.

If your permit of approval expires on October 30 or December 30, your renewal application is due June 25.

The renewal application due date is the same every year. It’s advised to mark your calendar with this date in order to adequately prepare the application for renewal and to avoid a late fee or possible revocation of approval to operate.

Renewal applications submitted after the due date, but before 30 days have passed, are required to include a late penalty in addition to the application fee. Late penalties are listed on the application fee schedule.

Renewal applications will not be accepted after 30 days past the due date. Institutions that do not submit the annual renewal by 30 days after the due date are no longer approved to operate.

The due date for the next fiscal year annual renewal is approaching. Our institution submitted the annual renewal for the prior fiscal year and we still have not received an approval. Do we have to submit an annual renewal?

Yes. Institutions are required by the PBVS Act of 2012 to submit a renewal application annually. As soon as the prior year’s annual renewal is reviewed and approved the Certificate of Approval will be issued. The PBVS Division has a small staff that is working diligently to review applications in order of receipt.

If a school is in urgent need of a response regarding an application submission due to accreditation requirements, lease agreements, licensure issues, or other situations that puts the organization in jeopardy of closure, it is incumbent upon the institution to communicate the need with staff. We can often assist with a letter verifying receipt of application materials and may consider on a case-by-case basis accommodating emergency needs with a rare acceleration of review.

Note: Failure to submit the renewal application (Annual or 5th Year) will result in a penalty fine and possible permit revocation.

What is the difference between a program of study and a course of instruction/stand-alone course?

A program of study is a series/sequence of courses that must be taken to complete training.

A course of instruction/stand-alone course provides instruction that may or may not be related to a program of study, but is either not part of a sequence or can be taken independent of the full sequence as a stand-alone option. A Course of Instruction may directly prepare students for a certificate or other completion credential or it can stand alone as an optional preparation or, in the case of students requiring catch-up work, a prerequisite for a program. A stand-alone course might lead to a credential to be used toward preparing individuals for a trade, occupation, vocation, profession; or it might improve, enhance or add to skills and abilities related to occupational/career opportunities.

We are starting a new program/course at an extension site. Do we have to wait for approval from IBHE before we can start the first class?

Yes. All new programs/courses must be approved by the PBVS Division. Institutions must submit a New Program of Study Application and receive IBHE approval prior to offering the new program/course to students at any site.

Institutions wishing to offer an approved program/course at an extension site where the program was not previously offered must submit the Program and/or Institutional Change Application and receive approval prior to offering the program at a different location. An analyst will be reviewing the application to determine whether or not the institution has adequate facilities, equipment, staff, and other resources to ensure students receive a quality education.

Note: Offering programs or changing programs prior to IBHE approval will result in penalty fines, and may be grounds for permit revocation.

Do tuition and fee changes need to be reported to IBHE?

Tuition and fee changes as a stand-alone change do not need to be submitted to IBHE. However, if tuition and fee changes are due to program/course modifications, then the change and justification for the tuition and fee increase must to be reported on the Program and/or Institutional Change Application.