THE ACCREDITATION PROVISIONS OF H.R. 4508
The key accreditation provisions address the operation of the three major actors in the determination of quality in higher education: accrediting organizations, institutions and the federal government:
- Establishes a single recognition standard – “student learning and educational outcomes” – removing the current ten recognition standards in the law.
- Provides for differentiated review of institutions and programs, putting into law a practice that most accrediting organizations have long engaged – varying the scope and intensity of accreditation review based on past performance.
- Further manages the composition of accrediting decision-making bodies by requiring that at least one member is from business.
- Requires that accrediting organizations demonstrate their capacity to undertake competency-based reviews.
- Requires that accrediting organizations identify and monitor substandard institutions and programs.
- Adjusts the definition of “religious mission” and requires full acknowledgment of this mission when applying accreditation standards.
- Allows for waivers of accreditation requirements to encourage innovation.
- Replaces the requirement that accrediting organizations be “separate and independent” with a requirement to be “separately incorporated.”
- Allows institutions to change accreditors without accreditor approval, providing that there are no existing sanctions against the institution.
- Reduces the number of “substantive change” provisions or changes that institutions must submit to accreditors for approval; institutions can move forward with more changes in, e.g., curriculum, programs, without going to accreditors.
- Allows a newly appointed Secretary of Education to replace prior Secretary appointments to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), the advisory body that recommends to the Secretary whether an accrediting organization is to be recognized.
- Limits the authority of NACIQI to making recommendations only on recognition status and no longer providing general advice to the Secretary. Provides for Title IV support to students taking coursework or other offerings from non-institutional (alternative) providers without accredited status.
- Provides for Title IV support to students taking coursework or other offerings from non-institutional (alternative) providers without accredited status.
Several other features of H.R. 4508 are not accreditation provisions but, nonetheless, will have a significant impact on accreditation. These are removal of the federal definition of credit hour and the introduction of program-level evaluation for purposes of Title IV as well as removal of the gainful employment requirements, the borrower defense requirements and the state authorization requirements.
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