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.