About the Educational Approval Program

​EAP Approval Versus Accreditation

EAP approval is not the same as accreditation. Read below to learn the differences.

We often get calls asking if a school is accredited. While some of the EAP approved schools are accredited, the function of the Educational Approval Program (EAP) is to approve schools to operate in Wisconsin, or in the instance of out-of-state schools, approve schools to serve Wisconsin residents. The United States has no federal ministry of education or other centralized authority exercising single national control over postsecondary education institutions. The states assume varying degrees of control over education, but, in general, institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, American educational institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs.

In Wisconsin, the EAP is the agency charged with overseeing and approving all postsecondary institutions serving veterans, for-profit postsecondary schools, out-of-state nonprofit colleges and instate nonprofit training institutions incorporated after January 1, 1992. The impetus for these actions is consumer protection and the assurance that students get quality programs in schools that are held to firm programmatic and operational standards. Generally, training which leads to employment or ongoing education is approved. Such training is usually offered in a series of subjects with a unified purpose, as opposed to individual or random classes.

Schools seeking approval from EAP undergo a rigorous approval process. In addition to evaluating school approval applications, staff evaluates program and teaching location applications, advertising, enrollment and school catalog documents, refund policies and financial statements. Approval is granted after a school has submitted all required information and forms and the school is in compliance with state law. Every year a school must renew its approval by sending in a renewal application. Schools must submit financial statements with the renewal application. Staff reviews the school's financial situation, student outcome data and surety bond amounts during the renewal cycle. Staff visit approved schools annually. While staff must monitor schools for compliance with state law, the primary function of the site visit is to assist the institution in strengthening its capacity to improve its internal processes, feedback loops and evaluation systems.

The EAP also performs its consumer protection function by handling student complaints. We investigate the complainant's issues and concerns and work with the school and the complainant to resolve any troublesome situations. Apart from the legal obligation, an approval by the EAP gives schools credibility. Schools are encouraged to use EAP approval as a benchmark of quality when promoting their schools and programs to the public. A list of approved schools is made available to public agencies, job seekers, school counselors and others interested in education and training.

Accreditation is the granting of public recognition to a school, university or course of study that meets certain established standards and qualifications. It provides a professional judgment regarding the quality of the schools or programs, while also encouraging continual improvement. The practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting nongovernmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs. Private educational associations of regional or national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether or not they are operating at basic levels of quality.

There are two basic types of educational accreditation, one identified as "institutional" and one referred to as "specialized" or "programmatic." Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, while specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution. A significant purpose of accreditation is to enable students to transfer from one accredited institution to another. However, accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned at another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers.

Financial aid, from government and private sources, is usually awarded only to students who attend recognized or accredited institutions. In 1984, the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (now the Council for Higher Education Accreditation --CHEA) recognized 11 accrediting bodies that include most traditional colleges and universities. In addition, there are a number of national institutional and specialized accrediting bodies recognized by the Department of Education. A complete list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies is available on the Internet. Accrediting agencies and state agencies like the EAP, work together to provide oversight of the institutions. The EAP provides information concerning a school's education services, business ethics and general reputation to accreditors when a school makes an initial application. EAP staff often participates in initial on-site visits by the accreditation teams as well as renewal accreditation visits.

Frequently Asked Questions

This page is intended to describe the Educational Approval Program (EAP) and what it does. It does not supersede statutes or administrative rule in defining the agency's roles and responsibilities.

  1. What does the EAP do? The EAP protects consumers by approving and supervising private, postsecondary schools that offer occupational training and educational programs to Wisconsin residents.
  2. Why have an EAP? The EAP exists for two reasons: 1) to prevent consumers from being misled; and 2) to ensure consumers get quality programs. We do this by holding schools accountable.
  3. Whom does the EAP oversee? The EAP oversees for-profit, postsecondary schools (except cosmetology and real estate); out-of-state non-profit colleges and universities; in-state non-profit institutions incorporated after 1/1/92.
  4. What exactly is a school? A school is any entity (individual, business or institution) which charges tuition for postsecondary training or education. We define a school by what it does, not what it is called.
  5. What training is approved? Generally, the EAP approves training or education that leads to employment, a diploma, or degree. Such training or education is offered in a defined program.
  6. What about public sector programs? Any for-profit entity, or non-profit entity incorporated after 1/1/92, must be approved in order to contract with the Workforce Innovation & Opportunities Act, W2, or Vocational Rehabilitation.
  7. What is exempt? The following kinds of training are exempt from EAP oversight:
    • Religious or strictly sectarian training
    • Professional development
    • Training provided for a business with limited access to non-employees
    • Employers training their own employees
  8. How does the EAP define professional development? We typically view professional development as training which increases the skills of individuals already qualified for an occupation. This sort of instruction does not fall under EAP jurisdiction. Training for upgrading of skills which leads to a higher level in an occupation may need to be approved.
  9. Does the EAP oversee distance learning via the Internet? State statutes say if a school serves a Wisconsin resident, it should be EAP approved unless the school is exempt. However, many schools offering programs and degrees via the Internet do not seek EAP approval. To protect themselves, consumers should contact the EAP before enrolling in schools offering distance learning programs.
  10. What if a school is not approved? Unapproved schools are breaking the law. The Attorney General enforces EAP statutes. An unapproved school is subject to a $500-a-day fine and other penalties.
  11. Are there benefits to being approved? EAP approval gives school credibility. A list of approved schools is made available to public agencies, job seekers, school counselors, and others interested in education and training.
  12. What about fees? Although the EAP is a state agency, it receives no tax monies to carry out its responsibilities. EAP charges fees for an initial school application as well as program, teaching location, change of ownership, and school representative applications. EAP-approved schools also pay annual renewal fees.
  13. How do I start a school in Wisconsin? If you want to start a proprietary or private school, go to the School and Program Approval Guide for information. Carefully read about the approval process, then contact an EAP education consultant to discuss the approval process and answer any questions.
  14. What does the approval process involve? The EAP has an application form, which is used to guide the process. The process generally look like this:
    • School requests application materials
    • School personnel meets with an EAP education consultant to review application material
    • School completes and submits the application materials and fee
    • The education consultant does a completeness and compliance review of the materials submitted
    • An industry consultant may evaluate programs
    • The education consultant prepares and sends letter of findings to the school
    • If needed, the school makes corrections to meet EAP requirements and resubmits revised materials
    • When the application materials meet EAP requirements, the school is approved to operate
  15. Do schools renew their approval? Every year a school must renew its approval by sending in a renewal application. The application is due in September prior to the calendar year for which the school is renewing its approval.
  16. Are there renewal fees?The annual renewal fee has two parts:
    • A $500 fee due in September with the renewal application
    • A second payment which is a percentage of the school's adjusted gross annual revenues minus refunds paid to students
  17. What about teaching locations? The EAP requires that schools and teaching locations not pose a health or safety risk to students or staff and that they provide an adequate learning environment. The Division of Safety & Buildings inspects facilities. Schools must provide to us information about each location along with the appropriate application and fee.
  18. Are there advertising standards? The EAP expects each school to maintain high ethical standards in producing advertising and promotional materials. We have strict guidelines which bar misleading or unfounded claims by a school.
  19. How else are consumers protected? Complaint Handling- Periodically we receive student complaints. We investigate these only after they are put into written form from the complainant. We work with the school and the complainant to resolve the complaint. If we cannot resolve the situation, the student and/or the school may request a hearing. Other Protections Schools must have refund policies, which enable students to withdraw or change their mind about attending a school without losing all tuition they have paid. We require that schools be bonded to protect students if a school closes or if it defrauds or misrepresents itself to the public. We require that enrollment documents and school catalogs contain specific information to allow students to make informed decisions regarding enrollment in a school or program.
  20. How do I file a complaint about a proprietary school? Obtain a copy of the school complaint process from the school you are attending. Talk to the teacher or person involved. State clearly what you need or want. If you are not satisfied, contact the education director or school owner. If you follow all the steps of the school process and you are still not satisfied, you may send a letter or call the EAP delineating your complaint, and the facts of the case, in writing. When the complaint is received, this office will contact the school and conduct an investigation into the situation which resulted in the complaint. More details about the complaint process can be found under the "Student" link located on the right hand of this page.
  21. What if a school closes? The EAP directly manages a closed school situation. We provide advice to students, work with surety companies to secure reimbursements and coordinate activities with other appropriate state and federal agencies. We also ensure that all school records are retained so that students can verify attendance for future education and employment needs.
  22. What if a school is closed and I need a copy of my transcript? The EAP does not have student records for all closed schools. If you need a transcript from a school that closed, please reference the List of Closed Schools and Colleges (403 KB). If the EAP has the records, follow the instructions provided in the "Student" link on the right hand of this page. The transcript request procedure can be found under the "Transcript Requests" bar.
  23. What is accreditation? The term "accreditation" is often misunderstood or incorrectly used synonymously with "EAP approval." Most private postsecondary schools serving Wisconsin students, whether they are located within or outside the state, are required by state law to obtain the EAP's approval prior to advertising or providing training. Accreditation, on the other hand, is a non-governmental, voluntary peer review process. In addition to satisfying the state's legal requirements, EAP approval gives credibility to a school, regardless of whether or not it is accredited.

Reports and Data

The EAP annually collects data from approved schools. The following reports have been compiled using student data to analyze outcomes.

2021 Student Outcomes Report

Student outcomes reported by EAP approved schools during the 2023 EAP Renewal make up the EAP 2021 Student Outcomes Report.

EAP 2021 Student Outcomes Report​​

2019 Student Outcomes Report

Student outcomes reported by EAP approved schools during the 2021 EAP Renewal make up the EAP 2019 Student Outcomes Report.

EAP 2019 Student Outcomes Report

2018 Student Outcomes Report

Student outcomes reported by EAP approved schools during the 2020 EAP Renewal make up the EAP 2018 Student Outcomes Report.

EAP 2018 Student Outcomes Report