Florida Senate - 2024                                     SB 282
       By Senator Rodriguez
       40-00390A-24                                           2024282__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to nonpublic religious postsecondary
    3         educational institutions; amending s. 1005.06, F.S.;
    4         removing religious colleges from the list of
    5         institutions specified as not being under the
    6         jurisdiction or purview of the Commission for
    7         Independent Education; creating s. 1005.12, F.S.;
    8         providing requirements that must be met by nonpublic
    9         religious postsecondary educational institutions that
   10         operate without being licensed by the commission;
   11         requiring such institutions to provide a sworn
   12         affidavit with specified information to the
   13         commission; requiring the commission to provide such
   14         institutions annually with a written notice of
   15         exemption from licensure and of compliance; providing
   16         methods for verifying such compliance; authorizing a
   17         religious nongovernmental education association to
   18         cooperate with the commission to determine whether a
   19         nonpublic religious postsecondary educational
   20         institution is in compliance; providing requirements
   21         for such associations; requiring the commission to
   22         send a specified notice to nonpublic religious
   23         postsecondary educational institutions under certain
   24         circumstances; providing that noncompliant
   25         institutions must apply for a license or cease
   26         operations within a specified timeframe; requiring
   27         that the employee or agent of the noncompliant
   28         institution who produced the sworn affidavit be
   29         subject to criminal penalties under certain
   30         circumstances; authorizing the commission to take
   31         action for noncompliance if certain conditions are
   32         met; amending ss. 553.865, 1005.03, 1005.04, 1005.21,
   33         and 1005.31, F.S.; conforming cross-references;
   34         providing an effective date.
   36  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   38         Section 1. Paragraph (f) of subsection (1) of section
   39  1005.06, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
   40         1005.06 Institutions not under the jurisdiction or purview
   41  of the commission.—
   42         (1) Except as otherwise provided in law, the following
   43  institutions are not under the jurisdiction or purview of the
   44  commission and are not required to obtain licensure:
   45         (f)A religious college may operate without governmental
   46  oversight if the college annually verifies by sworn affidavit to
   47  the commission that:
   48         1. The name of the institution includes a religious
   49  modifier or the name of a religious patriarch, saint, person, or
   50  symbol of the church.
   51         2. The institution offers only educational programs that
   52  prepare students for religious vocations as ministers,
   53  professionals, or laypersons in the categories of ministry,
   54  counseling, theology, education, administration, music, fine
   55  arts, media communications, or social work.
   56         3. The titles of degrees issued by the institution cannot
   57  be confused with secular degree titles. For this purpose, each
   58  degree title must include a religious modifier that immediately
   59  precedes, or is included within, any of the following degrees:
   60  Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Bachelor of Arts,
   61  Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor
   62  of Philosophy, and Doctor of Education. The religious modifier
   63  must be placed on the title line of the degree, on the
   64  transcript, and whenever the title of the degree appears in
   65  official school documents or publications.
   66         4. The duration of all degree programs offered by the
   67  institution is consistent with the standards of the commission.
   68         5. The institution’s consumer practices are consistent with
   69  those required by s. 1005.04.
   71  The commission may provide such a religious institution a letter
   72  stating that the institution has met the requirements of state
   73  law and is not subject to governmental oversight.
   74         Section 2. Section 1005.12, Florida Statutes, is created to
   75  read:
   76         1005.12 Nonpublic religious postsecondary educational
   77  institutions.—
   78         (1)Nonpublic religious postsecondary educational
   79  institutions, such as religious colleges, operating under this
   80  section without licensure are required to meet two or more of
   81  the following criteria:
   82         (a) Be incorporated in this state.
   83         (b) Be a limited liability company in this state.
   84         (c) Be under a domestic or foreign corporation registered
   85  in this state.
   86         (d) Be a ministry under an entity with an Internal Revenue
   87  Service taxpayer identification number.
   88         (e) Be tax exempt under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal
   89  Revenue Code.
   90         (f) Be registered under a fictitious name in this state
   91  under one of the entities specified in paragraphs (a)-(e).
   92         (2) A nonpublic religious postsecondary educational
   93  institution may operate exempt from licensure in this state if
   94  the institution annually provides to the commission by sworn
   95  affidavit, either electronically or in print, all of the
   96  following information or affirmations:
   97         (a) The name of the institution, which must include a
   98  religious modifier or the name of a religious patriarch, saint,
   99  person, or symbol of the church.
  100         (b) That the institution offers only educational programs
  101  that prepare students for religious vocations as ministers,
  102  professionals, or laypersons in the categories of ministry,
  103  counseling, theology, education, administration, business,
  104  accounting, finance, music, fine arts, media, social work, or
  105  communications.
  106         (c) The titles of any of the following degrees conferred by
  107  the institution, which must include a religious modifier on the
  108  title line of the degree, on the transcript, and whenever the
  109  title of the degree appears in the institution’s official
  110  documents or publications:
  111         1. Associate of Arts.
  112         2. Associate of Science.
  113         3. Bachelor of Arts.
  114         4. Bachelor of Science.
  115         5. Master of Arts.
  116         6. Master of Science.
  117         7. Doctor of Philosophy.
  118         8. Doctor of Education.
  119         (d) That the duration of all degree programs offered by the
  120  institution is consistent with the standards of the commission.
  121         (e) That the institution’s consumer practices are
  122  consistent with those required by s. 1005.04.
  123         (3)The commission shall annually provide the nonpublic
  124  religious postsecondary educational institution with a written
  125  notice stating that the institution is exempt from licensure and
  126  has complied with the requirements of this section. The written
  127  notice from the previous year remains effective until the
  128  commission’s workload permits its appropriate adjudication of a
  129  subsequent year’s sworn affidavit submitted by the institution.
  130         (4) Verification of the nonpublic religious postsecondary
  131  educational institution’s compliance with this section may be
  132  accomplished by one of the following methods:
  133         (a)A finding of compliance by the commission after the
  134  institution submits the required documentation in print or
  135  electronically.
  136         (b)A finding of compliance by a religious nongovernmental
  137  education association based in this state which the commission
  138  may cooperate with pursuant to s. 1005.22(1)(g) to administer
  139  its duties under this section. In order to issue a finding of
  140  compliance, a religious nongovernmental education association
  141  approved by the commission must:
  142         1.Operate in this state and require its members to reside
  143  in this state.
  144         2.Ensure that its members are trained by the association
  145  to verify compliance under this section.
  146         3.Have a review team composed of at least three members,
  147  of which no more than two members may derive income from the
  148  same institution as one another.
  149         4.Prohibit a member of the review team from deriving
  150  income from the institution being reviewed.
  151         5.Annually submit to the commission, on behalf of the
  152  institution being reviewed, a sworn affidavit designating the
  153  association as the institution’s agent to represent it before
  154  the commission and a written notice from the association’s
  155  review team affirming the institution’s compliance with this
  156  section.
  157         (5) If a nonpublic religious postsecondary educational
  158  institution has received from the commission a written notice of
  159  compliance with this section and exemption from licensure, and
  160  the institution subsequently fails to comply, the commission
  161  must send the institution a notice of noncompliance, and the
  162  institution must do one of the following:
  163         (a) Apply for a license pursuant to s. 1005.31(1)(a) within
  164  45 days after issuance of the notice.
  165         (b) Cease operating in this state within 45 days after
  166  issuance of the notice.
  167         (6) If the institution does not take the specified actions
  168  pursuant to subsection (5), the employee or agent of the
  169  institution who produced the sworn affidavit is subject to the
  170  penalties provided in s. 837.012 for making a false statement on
  171  a sworn affidavit.
  172         (7) The commission may take action pursuant to subsection
  173  (5) upon a finding of noncompliance by the institution, or upon
  174  receiving written notices from two or more different nonpublic
  175  religious postsecondary educational institutions under this
  176  section that the institution in question has failed to meet the
  177  requirements of this section.
  178         Section 3. Paragraph (i) of subsection (3) of section
  179  553.865, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  180         553.865 Private spaces.—
  181         (3) As used in this section, the term:
  182         (i) “Postsecondary educational institution or facility”
  183  means:
  184         1. A state university as defined in s. 1000.21(8);
  185         2. A Florida College System institution as defined in s.
  186  1000.21(5);
  187         3. A school district career center as described in s.
  188  1001.44(3);
  189         4. A college or university licensed by the Commission for
  190  Independent Education pursuant to s. 1005.31(1)(a); or
  191         5. An institution not under the jurisdiction or purview of
  192  the commission as identified in s. 1005.06(1) or s. 1005.12 s.
  193  1005.06(1)(b)-(f).
  194         Section 4. Paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of section
  195  1005.03, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  196         1005.03 Designation “college” or “university.”—
  197         (1) The use of the designation “college” or “university” in
  198  combination with any series of letters, numbers, or words is
  199  restricted in this state to colleges or universities as defined
  200  in s. 1005.02 that offer degrees as defined in s. 1005.02 and
  201  fall into at least one of the following categories:
  202         (e) A college that meets the description of either s.
  203  1005.06(1)(e) or s. 1005.12 (f).
  204         Section 5. Subsection (1) of section 1005.04, Florida
  205  Statutes, is amended to read:
  206         1005.04 Fair consumer practices.—
  207         (1) Every institution that is under the jurisdiction of the
  208  commission or is exempt from the jurisdiction or purview of the
  209  commission pursuant to s. 1005.06(1)(c) or s. 1005.12 (f) and
  210  that either directly or indirectly solicits for enrollment any
  211  student shall:
  212         (a) Disclose to each prospective student a statement of the
  213  purpose of such institution, its educational programs and
  214  curricula, a description of its physical facilities, its status
  215  regarding licensure, its fee schedule and policies regarding
  216  retaining student fees if a student withdraws, and a statement
  217  regarding the transferability of credits to and from other
  218  institutions. The institution shall make the required
  219  disclosures in writing at least 1 week prior to enrollment or
  220  collection of any tuition from the prospective student. The
  221  required disclosures may be made in the institution’s current
  222  catalog;
  223         (b) Use a reliable method to assess, before accepting a
  224  student into a program, the student’s ability to complete
  225  successfully the course of study for which he or she has
  226  applied;
  227         (c) Inform each student accurately about financial
  228  assistance and obligations for repayment of loans; describe any
  229  employment placement services provided and the limitations
  230  thereof; and refrain from promising or implying guaranteed
  231  placement, market availability, or salary amounts;
  232         (d) Provide to prospective and enrolled students accurate
  233  information regarding the relationship of its programs to state
  234  licensure requirements for practicing related occupations and
  235  professions in Florida;
  236         (e) Ensure that all advertisements are accurate and not
  237  misleading;
  238         (f) Publish and follow an equitable prorated refund policy
  239  for all students, and follow both the federal refund guidelines
  240  for students receiving federal financial assistance and the
  241  minimum refund guidelines set by commission rule;
  242         (g) Follow the requirements of state and federal laws that
  243  require annual reporting with respect to crime statistics and
  244  physical plant safety and make those reports available to the
  245  public;
  246         (h) Publish and follow procedures for handling student
  247  complaints, disciplinary actions, and appeals; and
  248         (i) Prior to enrollment, provide a written disclosure to a
  249  student or prospective student of all fees and costs that will
  250  be incurred by a student, the institution’s refund policy, any
  251  exit examination requirements, and the grade point average
  252  required for completion of the student’s program or degree. The
  253  disclosure shall include a statement regarding the scope of
  254  accreditation, if applicable. Institutions licensed by the
  255  Commission for Independent Education shall disclose the
  256  information required pursuant to this paragraph in a format
  257  prescribed by the commission.
  258         Section 6. Paragraph (d) of subsection (2) of section
  259  1005.21, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  260         1005.21 Commission for Independent Education.—
  261         (2) The Commission for Independent Education shall consist
  262  of seven members who are residents of this state. The commission
  263  shall function in matters concerning independent postsecondary
  264  educational institutions in consumer protection, program
  265  improvement, and licensure for institutions under its purview.
  266  The Governor shall appoint the members of the commission who are
  267  subject to confirmation by the Senate. The membership of the
  268  commission shall consist of:
  269         (d) One representative of a college that meets the criteria
  270  of s. 1005.12 s. 1005.06(1)(f).
  271         Section 7. Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and subsection
  272  (11) of section 1005.31, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
  273         1005.31 Licensure of institutions.—
  274         (1)(a) Each college or school operating within this state
  275  must obtain licensure from the commission unless the institution
  276  is not under the commission’s purview or jurisdiction as
  277  provided in s. 1005.06, or the institution meets the
  278  requirements of s. 1005.12.
  279         (11) The commission shall establish minimum standards for
  280  the approval of agents. The commission may adopt rules to ensure
  281  that licensed agents meet these standards and uphold the intent
  282  of this chapter. An agent may not solicit prospective students
  283  in this state for enrollment in any independent postsecondary
  284  educational institution under the commission’s purview or in any
  285  out-of-state independent postsecondary educational institution
  286  unless the agent has received a license as prescribed by the
  287  commission or solicits for a postsecondary educational
  288  institution that is not under the jurisdiction of the commission
  289  pursuant to s. 1005.06(1)(g) s. 1005.06(1)(h).
  290         Section 8. This act shall take effect July 1, 2024.