Author’s note: This article was completed in December 2010 and does not reflect changes in laws in Virginia and New York to exempt yoga teacher training programs. I have left the article in its original form, however, because I think the history of those two states’ original implementation of licensing laws shows clearly why those particular states met with challenges to their laws from organized yoga teachers’ groups.
Recent changes in the application of state laws in Virginia, New York and in Michigan have required yoga teacher training programs to become certified or licensed vocational schools. My research so far is published below. This is a work in progress, and further input is welcome. I update it as I hear from additional sources.
I am soliciting input from yoga teacher training program directors who have been affected by the new enforcement of these laws, and by those who have not. I would like to know
1. The impact on individual yoga schools and affiliated studios. Are they going out of business? Enhancing their faculty and curriculum? Flying under the radar –i.e., finding a way to stay in business without having to become a vocational school?
2. The impact on the supply of qualified yoga teachers. Will potential teachers get better training, less training, out of state training, no training? Will community colleges and four year colleges start to offer yoga teacher training within exercise science or allied health programs?
3. Are there any other legal requirements such as licensure being asked of individual teachers in any state?
I appreciate as much clear and useful information as you can share. The data on this site is public and available to anyone else researching this topic. My aim is not be a competitive academic who gets to be the first to publish, but to be of service to yoga. I welcome collaboration on this project. Feel free to post anonymously if you do not want to specify which studio or school or teacher is having challenges with the state.
If you have thoughts on the topic but no data to add to a study, I also welcome your thoughts.
Research as of August 26, 2009:
States Move to Licensing Yoga Teacher Training
Several states now regulate Yoga teacher training (YTT) schools under the licensing laws that apply to other private vocational schools, such as those that train in massage, culinary arts, truck driving, HVAC, dental assisting, medical records and other fields. Detailed catalogs, refund policies, surety bonds, a fixed and safe location, financial stability, and a record of administrators’ and faculty’s credentials are among the requirements for licensing. This is does not appear to an attempt to control Yoga –state licensed schools typically still follow the Yoga Alliance curriculum guidelines– but the correction of a regulatory oversight. Such laws are meant to protect the public from unstable schools that take tuition money and close. They also protect the public from unqualified educators. The impact on YTT has been varied, from beneficial to disruptive.
Early Licensing States
Licensing of YTT programs is not new in 2009.
“Texas requires all career schools to either be licensed or exempt if they are offering training to residents in the state of Texas. Thus, it would be illegal to operate without either of these,” according to Virginia Bosnan, program specialist with the Texas Workforce Commission . “Yoga Teacher training does fall under our jurisdiction. In most cases a school must be licensed in order to receive any funding. The law has been in effect since 1972.”
Exemption may be given to schools that are bona fide religious, denominational or charitable institutions, and to those that can prove they are non-profit organizations.
The approval process can take two to three months, and schools may not operate during that period, nor advertise nor solicit registration.1
Texas lists seven licensed schools, four of which are in private vocational/technical schools that train for many careers, and which offer yoga teacher training as a 12.5 academic credit hour program. This would translate to close to 200 hours. Yoga Alliance lists 43 RYS in Texas, including the three non-academic private programs. The other forty may include both exempt programs, and those unaware of the law.
Arizona first required yoga teacher training programs to comply with existing licensing laws for vocational education in 2004. Keith Blanchard, with the Arizona State Board for Private Post Secondary Education, gave a brief history of the process in an interview for this article. YTT programs have, he said, always been required to comply with the law like any other school, but the state only became aware that YTT schools existed in 2004. A member of the Arizona board then contacted the president of Yoga Alliance. The state was grateful for YA curriculum guidelines, since they would not have known how to proceed with this, but determined it necessary to license schools since YA does not provide any student protection. Letters were sent asking the schools to complete a ten question letter of intent. The review process for the letter of intent takes ten days. 3 If it was determined a license was required, the schools were allowed to complete any current students’ training, but not to recruit and enroll new students until the application process was complete. An $800 application fee, a surety bond of $1,500 minimum and a CPA prepared financial statement are required, to protect students’ tuition investment. 2The application requires a detailed course of study plan and instructor and administrator credentials. A school will be ordered to cease and desist if they do not fill out an application within 60 days after being found to need a license.
Maredith Estrada-Schroeder, administrator at Inner Vision Yoga in Chandler AZ says she was notified by mail in 2007, with plenty of notice in order to comply with the law. She has noticed a substantial increase in administrative time, and knows to notify the state before making changes in tuition or refund policies. She gives credit to the studio’s staff for all the work involved in getting licensed. “If we did not have these people (which most yoga studios that are operating do not) it would have been very difficult to get licencing as quickly as we did. We did have to increase our tuition upon implementation of licencing to cover the cost of more administration and class time. ” Licensing has not affected Inner Vision’s curriculum, or number of students.”State licencing is the watchdog for protecting consumer rights but that seems to be it.”
Students in private YTT programs are eligible for VA benefits in AZ, and also for benefits through a local workforce investment program, ArizonaHeat.
YTT fees in AZ range from $2,150 to $3,500 for a YA registered 200-hour program.
Arizona currently has seven private licensed schools and two or three in the application process. There is also a teacher training program at Scottsdale Community College, a public institution.
Wisconsin has eight licensed YTT programs, half of them in business since licensing began in 2004. Tuition fees are typically $3,300.
Wisconsin’s Educational Approval Board gives unapproved schools 60 days from the date they receive their application from the EAB to complete it, or the case will be referred to the attorney general. An institution offering one non-degree program pays a $2,000 application fee. The surety bond ranges from $1,000 up, depending on unearned tuition held. 4
One Wisconsin YTT director with 20 years’ experience said she appreciated the licensing requirement because “The EAB did prevent a teacher with two years of experience (who was very unorganized) from starting her school without the proper systems in place. She is no longer offering teacher training… The licensing also prevented Yoga Fit from coming to our State and offering weekend certifications. ..Licensing is labor and time intensive, but only serious teachers will follow through with the process. A lot of newer studio owners are trying to offer teacher training to increase cash flow vs. training quality teachers. I’m happy with the way the State of WI has treated my business.” 5
“The Education Approval Board of Wisconsin has been very helpful and I can’t say that it is necessarily a bad thing to have someone overseeing the process. I don’t believe I would have been as thorough or as forward thinking about the process without their guidance,” says Marci Tousey of YogaLoft in Sheboygan, who started her program after the licensing requirement had already been in place for several years.
The following email from Scott Anderson of Alignment Yoga in Blue Mounds WI reflects describes the transition well.
“Here in Wisconsin, the Educational Approval Board started regulating us 4-5 years ago. At first it was a big shock/stress, then once we went through our first year under their jurisdiction, we got used to the new routine and have adapted.
“I’m fundamentally glad for the EAB, as it’s made us operate much more professionally. Yoga Schools were sprouting up like mushrooms, and many of them were mediocre. The EAB culled out a lot of the dabblers and the remaining schools have very solid programs. It’s provided protection for the consumer (teacher trainee) that I think is very important.
“When the EAB first contacted us, we were given a few months to comply. We were allowed to continue operating, though it was made abundantly clear that if the process did not go through, our school would be closed. That being said, the WI EAB staff was wonderfully supportive and encouraging. They seem highly motivated to see students get good educations, which demands that schools be accountable. As providers, if we showed good-faith efforts at helping our students and working toward full compliance of WI statutes, the EAB was right there for us. It was not an adversarial experience – rather, it was collaborative in nature. The EAB wanted to see us succeed in providing our students a good education.
“The biggest hurdle was getting bonded. Bonding agencies were hesitant to work with yoga schools, even though our balance sheet was highly credible. Thankfully I have some friends in the insurance industry who made some connections for me. If we didn’t get the bond, we couldn’t operate! More than a few sleepless nights were spent with this dilemma.
“”The state oversight definitely adds administrative time, though the initial investment is being amortized over the lifetime of our school. Now that we’ve been working together a few years, I’d say we spend <40 hours per year on additional administrative duties – a modest increase. We’ve increased tuition almost 20% in the past few years, as the state statutes have very lenient tuition-refund policies that are very costly to comply with. I’ve raised tuition each year and am about at the equilibrium point, now.
“Our program has filled every year since 1995, so it’s hard to tell how enrollment has changed since the EAB started overseeing us 4-5 years ago – certainly having few schools hasn’t hurt our endeavor.
“The EAB continues to nudge us into making better programs. I’m not always happy when they’ve got a new idea for us, but without exception, they’ve forced me to craft a better school. We’re offering our students a much better program in the post-EAB era than in the pre-EAB era.
“In summary, I think state oversight has been a good thing for WI yoga students. It’s not always been easy, but has asked us to rise to the challenge.”
Pamela Bliss of Yogasylum in Brookfield WI said she could echo much of Anderson’s view. She says the EAB representative visits the school, pays close attention to details of the program and talks with the students. He is “a liaison between students and school if there is any problem; this is a consumer protection agency. It’s not a bad thing. It’s intimidating at first, but now I appreciate it. The state is a great resource.”
All YTT program directors contacted in WI and AZ, including those who opened as recently as 2008 or ’09, found out about the licensing requirement through the state board regulating them, or through word of mouth from other program directors. None were notified of this by Yoga Alliance, although YA had been contacted in 2004 by the regulating body in AZ. Yoga Alliance advises schools and teachers to comply with all state and local laws in its code of conduct but does not, in the process of registering schools, advise what those laws might be. Schools may in pay their fees to YA believing this is all that is needed, and then find out they are operating illegally. The YA registry for WI shows 11 schools and the state only eight. 6 These other three may be in the application process with the state, since there is a 60 day period in which to do this. As noted earlier, the discrepancy between the state’s registry and Yoga Alliance’s is much greater in Texas.
Newly Licensing States
An organization of trade schools called Michigan’s attention to the fact that YTT programs were not licensed. 7In late March 2009 Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, Proprietary School Unit, gave YA RYS YTT programs a week to comply with a 1943 law requiring all private vocational education programs to be licensed with the state. Operating an unlicensed school, they were warned, could result in penalties including a fine and incarceration. The application fee of $1,275 and the requirement for a $5,000 surety bond caused the closing of some smaller programs, and some studios that depended on the income from YTT. 8
In the same time frame, New York and Virginia also sent notices to YTT programs registered with Yoga Alliance. Virginia schools were warned they could lose their business licenses if they did not comply with the law. With a $2,500 application fee— among the highest in states that license YTT schools – and the required $5,000 surety bond, Virginia is also losing smaller programs. 9Schools were given until December to be in compliance, allowing current classes to graduate, but no new students can be enrolled until licensure. 10
New York schools were told to close if not in compliance with the law or face a $50,000 fine. Currently enrolled trainees were not to able to complete their programs until schools complete licensing, which can take several months. According to Jane Briggs of the Communications Department of the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision YTT programs will definitely not be allowed to continue operating during the application process. “Unfortunately, these programs require licensure. We don’t have the authority to circumvent the law…” 11 New York’s application fee is $250, with an additional $50.00 per faculty member and $100.00 per administrator. 12It has been made clear in NY that the fact that many YTT graduates do not go on to teach is irrelevant to the need for licensing; the fact that graduation means they couldat some time choose to teach is sufficient;13 but Yoga teachers in New York formed a group to fight back, and so far, with support of a state legislator, they have kept licensing at bay, been allowed to keep training future teachers, and established a lobbying effort to make yoga exempt from licensing.(14 )
Utah and Kansas
Both states get good reviews from YTT program directors who have recently become licensed. While Utah’s fees are dramatically lower, both states seem to provide support, and excellent communication. Programs are allowed to keep teaching current students while getting applications processed. One program director in Kansas said that licensing is the best thing that has ever happened to her school; enrollment has gone up 30% in an already well-established program with nationally known guest teachers.
What can we expect in the future? My still incomplete survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia awaits responses from some states. Amost all states have proprietary school laws, and it seems logical to assume that all these laws apply to YTT as well as to training for other occupations, and probably will eventually be enforced. It seems that the “personality” of the sate agency itself has a lot to do with how well the licensing process goes. Those that are abrupt and even frightening in their enforcement may create resistance, or crush small businesses. Those that are supportive and flexible seem to help schools enhance their organization and planning. .
Yoga Alliance in a recent newsletter lists New Mexico as state that requires licensing. The state’s web site has not been updated for two years, but does not mention Yoga among the professions taught in state licensed proprietary schools. A reputable YTT program in Albuquerque was unaware of any requirement to be licensed when contacted in May 2009. I can’t yet confirm or disconfirm this requirement as of yet. The state has not gotten back to me. This is my list so far:
1. States that do not regulate or license proprietary vocational schools at all (whether they are culinary schools, tattooing schools, horseshoeing schools, or yoga teacher training schools).
California ( but it may reinstate regulation), Montana, South Dakota, Vermont
2. States that do have vocational schools licensing but do not include yoga teacher training, and the reasons why:
Arkansas: Only recently became aware of YTT schools.They will be requiring licensing in the near future.
Georgia: YTT schools are under the size that requires licensing; if YTT schools had over 20 enrolled at a time they would fall under the law.
Rhode Island: No reason given, they just don’t require it and don’t plan to.
West Virginia: There are, according to both the Yoga Alliance web site and the vocational school licensing board for the state of West Virginia, no YTT programs in West Virginia, so licensing is irrelevant.
States that have vocational school licensing laws and that do apply them to yoga teacher training programs are in the following chart:
Chart of states that License YTT
|State, Regulatory Body and Web Site or Contact Information||Application fee (and renewal fee if known)||Surety bond (1)||Other fees||Allowed to train current students during application process***|
|AlabamaAlabama Department of Postsecondary EducationP.O. Box 302130Montgomery, AL 36130-2130
|$25 application$1,250 license||$20,000||Depends on situation|
|AlaskaJo Anne HaydenInstitutional AuthorizationAlaska Commission on Postsecondary Education
PO Box 110505
Juneau, AK 99811-0505
|Arkansas*Arkansas State Board of Private Career Educationwww.sbpce.org||Scaled to tuition per student per course||Also determined by tuition||Yes|
|ArizonaArizona Board of Private Post Secondary Education www.azppse.state.az.us||$850||$15,000 min/scaled to income||Yes|
|Colorado Colorado Dept. of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools http:highered.colorado.gov/DPOS/Schools/forms.html#new||$2,000||Must cover unearned prepaid tuition held||Yes|
|Delaware (3)Private Business & Trade SchoolsDirector, DE State Approving AgencyDelaware Department of Education
35 Commerce Way
John Collette Education Resource Center
Dover, DE 19904
302.857-3313 (T) 302.739.1770 (F)
|$100||$25,000 min.||$10 (B) per agent||No|
|Idaho (3)Office of the State Board Of Education (OSBE) http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov … (pull down) Higher Education — (then select) Proprietary Schools Registration.Note: This is registration, not licensing; does not imply approval of quality as license might||5% of net tuition income previous year or estimate of first year||Based on unearned tuition held||Yes|
|IllinoisIllinois State Board of Education, Private Business Vocational Schoolshttp://www.isbe.state.il.us/pbvs/Default.htm||$500Renewal $250||Based on tuitionSale rep. bond $2,000||No****|
|KansasKansas Board of Regents , Private Post Secondary Educationwww.kansasregents.org/institutions/career/index.html||$850||$20,000||$75(B)||Yes|
|LouisianaLouisiana Board of Regents Proprietary Schools Program http://www.regents.louisiana.gov/PropSchools/forms.htm||$2,000||$10,000||$1,000 (A)||No|
|MassachusettsMassachusetts Department of Education, Office of Proprietary Schoolshttp://www.doe.mass.edu/ops/procedures.html||$300 good for 2 years/ $200 renewal||Scaled to revenue||Unclear|
|MichiganMichigan Department of Energy, Labor and Commerce Proprietary Schools Unitwww.michiganps.net||$2,000Renewal much lower, scaled to income||$5,000||Unclear|
|MinnesotaMinnesota Office of Higher Education, Schools Licensure and registration, Private Career Schoolswww.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=204||$1,500– 1 program. $2,000– 2 or more programs||$10,000 min.||No****|
|MissouriMissouri Department of Higher Educationhttp://www.dhe.mo.gov/proprietarycertification.shtml||$250/renewal:$.001 multiplied by the net tuition and fee income for the preceding year, min. $250||.$5,000-$2500 based on gross tuition or 1st year estimate||No****|
|New HampshireCareer School LicensingN.H. Postsecondary Education Commission (603) 271-2555 x 354
|OhioOhio State Board of Career Colleges Schools andhttp://scr.ohio.gov||$300||$10,000||$500 (A)||Yes|
|OklahomaOklahoma Board of Private Vocational SchoolsDirector – Mr. Dennis Rea3700 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 250
Oklahoma City, OK 73118-2864
no web site for contact or forms
|$1,200.00. Renewal fee $700 – $1,500 based on tuition||$5,000 first year, based on tuition income after first year.||“Not legally”|
|TexasTexas Workforce Commission www.twc.state.tx.us/svcs/propschools/propproc.html||$1,001/ $500 min. renewal||Repealed in 2003. None required.||$20 per instructor and director||No|
|Utah (3)Department of Consumer Protectionhttp://consumerprotection.utah.gov/registrations/schools.html||$100 min.scaled to income maximum is $2,000.||25% of the gross tuition income. In the process of a rule change; may affect the amounts.||Yes|
|VirginiaState Council of Higher Education for Virginiahttp://www.schev.edu/schev/formsIndex.asp||$2,500||$5,000||Yes in first year of enforcement, 2009|
|WashingtonWorkforce Training and Education Coordinating Board www.wtb.wa.gov/WorkforceBoard.asp360-753-5662.||$250 to $2,500 scaled to income||none||$305 to $1,523 (A)1st year, scaled to income/ reduced subsequent years, still scaled||See note 2|
|WisconsinEducational Approval Boardhttp://eab.states.wi.us||$2,000||Scaled to income||Yes|
|Wyoming**Private School Program ManagerWyoming Department of Educationwww.k12.wy.us/F/psl/asp||$200||$10,00 to $50,00 scaled to # of students||$100 (B)||unclear|
*included because it will soon require licensing, and might be doing so by time of publication
**included because the response from the state was to send me copies of the laws and application process, and nothing indicated an exemption for YTT.
***This permission to continue the education of currently enrolled students usually has time limits and conditions such as evidence of good faith efforts to complete the licensing process, and no advertisement or recruitment of new students until licensing is complete. Some states have a 60 day window. It is never an unconditional yes.
****Technically it is not allowed but they are being nice about it. Illinois is letting schools comply on their own and will probably not send out letters for 2 years. Minnesota “Technically no, but each situation is handled based on the situation of the students already enrolled.” Missouri “Normally this department does not allow applicant schools to operate until final certification of approval to operate is granted. However, under the circumstances, this department is allowing yoga instructor providers to continue their operations with the understanding that they will submit all requested materials for department review in a timely manner.”
(A) Tuition recovery fund also called student protection fee in some states. These funds are used first if a school closes or otherwise is unable to honor refunds .As explained by Louisiana’s Carol Marabella “Should a school abruptly close and leave students stranded, and a teach-out situation could not be arranged, we would first file against the $10,000 school bond to cover the tuition losses for the students. If tuition losses exceeded the school bond, we would tap into the Student Protection Fund for the balance. Fortunately, we have tapped into the fund very few times.”
(B) Agent, representative or administrator fee. States use the term agent to refer to administrators who recruit students into the program.
“Definition of surety bond
A bond issued by an entity on behalf of a second party, guaranteeing that the second party will fulfill an obligation or series of obligations to a third party. In the event that the obligations are not met, the third party will recover its losses via the bond.”
The actual fee to the insurance company for being bonded is much lower than the bond amount itself. One director gave the example of paying $125 to be bonded for $5,000.
- Washington has a unique process which I will not attempt to explain here. The state requires that a school first obtain a Master Business License from the state’s Department of Licensing and register with the state’s Department of Revenue.
- Most states take 2 to 3 months to process applications, but Delaware and Utah say 30 to 45 days, and Idaho 2 to 3 days if the entire application is complete and accurate.
If a state is not on this list it is because, as of August 26, 2009 I have not been able to contact a source. If a state has a vocational school law, licensing may be under the board of education, the board of regents for higher education, the secretary of state, or the workforce commission; identifying the agencies and successfully searching their web sites for the information takes time. In some cases even three attempts to find a contact have been unsuccessful.
In more populous states that do not enforce licensing, there can be over 20 Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Schools, while states with low populations may have fewer than ten. In the two states with five years of well-enforced and publicized mandatory licensing ( AZ and WI), there are seven and eight licensed YTT schools, making it uncertain if licensing reduced the number of schools dramatically or only moderately. A number of states seem to enforce licensing very lightly, given the large discrepancy between the number of state licensed schools and YA registered schools. As states require licensing, we can expect some reduction in number of programs, and a probable increase in tuition, which in both licensing and non-licensing states ranges from $2,000 to $3,500. Lowest fees are more common in non-licensing states, but the higher fees are not exclusive to licensed schools and are found around the country.
Smaller programs with lower incomes will probably be the ones to close, regardless of quality, in the states with high fees. Both good programs without money and less qualified programs that do not meet licensing requirements will close.
Aspiring yoga teachers will have access to various types of financial aid and to organized, reliable programs with qualified personnel and solid consumer protection. As it completes it own survey of states,Yoga Alliance should include information about state licensing when processing RYS applications. New schools and existing schools may benefit from state licensing, as it seems to improve the YTT program as well as provide student protection.
Question that need to be explored in follow-ups to this initial survey:
- What is the measured impact on individual yoga schools and affiliated studios? How many are going out of business? Are those that get licensed enhancing their organization, faculty and curriculum, or just filling out forms?
- Are schools finding legitimate ways of “flying under the radar” –i.e., ways to stay in business without having to become a vocational school?
- Will YTT programs taught by traveling or international teachers, and workshop-based programs that are offered in intervals at locations around the country, be exempt or required to be licensed in multiple states?
- What is the impact of school licensing on the supply of qualified yoga teachers? Is Yoga like medicine before the Flexner report—oversupplied with under-qualified teachers from programs that have never been evaluated? Or have the YA standards been sufficient to assure both effective schools and safe, competent teachers? How can this best be assessed?
- Will more community colleges and four year colleges start to offer Yoga teacher training within exercise science or allied health programs as a result of any decrease in private YTT schools?
The research required to answer these questions will take time, and many more researchers involved in the process.
- 1. www.twc.state.tx.us/svcs/propschools/propproc.html
- Blanchard, Keith ; Arizona Board of Private Post Secondary Education; personal communication, May19, 2009
- 3. azppse.state.az.us
- Williamson, Debbie; Midwest Power Yoga; Personal communication, May 20, 2009
- Beamish, Michael; State of Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; Letter to Yoga Alliance registered Yoga Schools , March 31, 2009
10. Rapp, Lisa and Richardson, Ann; personal communications, on school closings and continuance, March 2009 and May 2009
11. Briggs, Jane; New York Education Dept. Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision; quoted on www.yogacitynyc.com
13. Yates Carol, Director, BPSS, Memo May 1, 2009, cited by Jo Brill on www.yogaforawareness.org/yogaregulation.htm