The United States Department of Education published final accreditation and state authorization regulations in October. The rules which will govern accrediting agencies and how they accredit institutions, as well as state authorization rules for distance education providers will have two different effective dates. Most of the published regulations will take effect on July 1, 2020, however some of the provisions were scheduled for early implementation beginning on November 1, 2019.
600.2 – Institutional Eligibility
600.9 – State Auth – Religious Institutions
668.43 – State Complaint Process
668.50 – Institutional Disclosure for Distance Programs
The remaining regulations pertaining to the Department’s recognition of accrediting agencies, will take effect on July 1, 2021.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR POLICY CHANGES RELATED TO ACCREDITATION
- Eliminate geography to determine an accreditor’s scope of recognition and clarify that institutional mission, rather than geographic location, should guide the quality assessment of an institution and its programs.
- Affirm that accreditors must respect the mission of an institution of higher education that relies upon religious tenets, beliefs, or teachings.
- Encourage institutions to evaluate the merit of transfer credits and prior learning assessment more fairly to reduce the need for students to take – and pay for – the same classes twice.
- Allow accreditors to establish different methods of monitoring institutional success, based on the mission of the institution and the goals of its students.
- Provide flexibility for accreditors to support innovation in higher education, recognizing that innovation has inherent risk, and monitoring the innovation carefully to intervene when student success is at risk.
- Engage employers more directly in the evaluation of program quality and allow for institutional decision-making models that give employers a more prominent role in recommending program or curriculum updates.
- Provide opportunities for accreditors to increase standards for accountability, while also providing an appropriate amount of time for institutions to make the changes needed to meet those standards.
- Allow accreditors to take earlier action when institutions are struggling to require teach-out plans and permitting accreditors to permit teach-out agreements before a school announces its closure.
- Reduce credential inflation, especially in programs that lead to a State license, to allow low income students the opportunity to pursue those occupations and to ensure that the cost of qualifying for work does not exceed a graduate’s likely earnings.
- Reduce the time and complexity associated with approving an accreditor’s application for initial or renewal of recognition.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR POLICY CHANGES RELATED TO STATE AUTHORIZATION
- Make clear that an institution must identify the State in which a student is “located” and, therefore, the State in which the institution must have authorization.
- More clearly define State authorization reciprocity agreements and reaffirm that they meet the requirements of the State authorization regulations for States that elect to participate in them.
- Expand consumer protections for students who are enrolled in programs that lead to occupational licensure, including those enrolled in ground-based courses or programs.
- Reduce the disclosures that institutions must provide students to reduce the cost and burden of distributing them and increasing the chances that students will consider them.
- Eliminate requirements for States to establish new or separate consumer complaint processes for students enrolled in distance learning programs, while providing other options to ensure consumer protection.
- Enable institutions to determine the States for which it will determine occupational licensing requirements, while requiring institutions to report that information accurately to students.
- Enable students to continue their education, even if work or military service requires them to move to a new State, and to allow students to complete internships with potential future employers, without adding new State licensing fees to their institutions.
Institutions with questions pertaining to this or other matters of compliance with Accreditation, Federal Student Aid standards are welcome to contact our offices for additional assistance.
The Department of Education released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last week to convene more negotiated rulemaking committees. This time the Department plans to take up issues related to a number of issues related to accreditation, distance education modalities and faith based education. Among the specific issues they aim to address, the Department plans to hold several negotiated rulemaking sessions to discuss
- Requirements for accrediting agencies in their oversight of member institutions;
- Requirements for accrediting agencies to honor institutional mission;
- Criteria used by the Secretary to recognize accrediting agencies, emphasizing criteria that focus on educational quality;
- Developing a single definition for purposes of measuring and reporting job placement rates; and
- Simplifying the Department’s process for recognition and review of accrediting agencies.
- Additionally the committee will take up issues related to State Authorization, Definition of a Credit Hour, the Definition of Regular and Substantive Interaction.
Public comments and recommendations are open until September 14, 2018.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) has filed an Application for Initial Recognition with the U.S. Department of Education. The accrediting agency lost recognition in 2016 after several of its member institutions were shut down amid scandals involving fraud and abuse.
ACICS will be on the agenda for the Spring 2018 National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) meeting. The meeting date has not been determined but will be announced in a Federal Register notice soon. The OPE has put out a call for written third-party comments which you can access here.
Transitioning ACICS school’s waiting for site visits received some relief when the Department of Education’s School Eligibility Service Group extended the deadline until February 28, 2018, however, all schools must have obtained an affirmative approval of accreditation from a recognized accreditor by the June 12, 2018, statutory deadline.
According to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, by Adam Harris and Eric Kelderman, “The department’s actions have raised the prospect that it may decide to restore the embattled accreditor’s eligibility. ”
The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) and the Accrediting Commission of Career Colleges and Schools (ACCSC) have announced that the two organizations have entered into a management agreement for the purpose of strengthening COMTA organizational resources and exploring opportunities to develop a joint institutional and programmatic accreditation process.
While both accrediting agencies remain as separate, autonomous agencies with each maintaining separate recognition with the U.S. Department of Education; COMTA will contract many of its management activities through ACCSC, such as accounting, administrative staff, travel, and human resources. According to the joint press release, the management agreement will allow both organizations to work closely together to develop a singular joint accreditation process that will yield both institutional and programmatic accreditation status for schools with massage therapy and esthetics programs; and allows COMTA to streamline its operational processes with ACCSC strong infrastructure, thereby allowing the COMTA Commission to better serve its member schools and advocate as the massage therapy and esthetics professions’ sole specialized accrediting agency.
You can read the COMTA/ACCSC press release here: http://bit.ly/2pvLPVD
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The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies, which are private educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency’s evaluation and that meet an agency’s criteria are then “accredited” by that agency.
Depending on a number of factors, the process of obtaining initial accreditation can take up to two years for national accreditation and up to four or more years for regional accreditation. Choosing an appropriate accreditor is an important first step and one that should be taken with due care, as not all accrediting agencies are created equal. Continue reading Considering Accreditation? Nine Questions To Ask Yourself