Number 31, April 15, 2013


PRESIDENT'S FY 2014 BUDGET PROPOSAL CONTAINS FUNDING FOR INITIATIVE TO ENCOURAGE NEW QUALITY VALIDATION SYSTEMS

On April 10, 2013, President Barack Obama released his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal. The proposal calls for $71 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), an increase of 4.5 percent over the FY 2013 pre-sequester level.

The proposal includes funding for a First in the World initiative "to encourage institutions and other higher education stakeholders to come up with innovative solutions to address the completion challenge and improve higher education productivity" and to examine "new quality validation systems that can identify appropriate competencies, assessments, and curricula."

In its budget summary, USDE noted that examining new validation systems would address the President's call - in the documents supporting his 2013 State of the Union Address - for Congress to consider either incorporating value and affordability measures into the current accreditation system or setting up "an alternative to accreditation" that would provide a path for new providers to gain access to student financial aid based on performance and results (see Federal Update #29).

BILLS AFFECTING ACCREDITATION INTRODUCED IN U.S. SENATE AND HOUSE

CHEA is following several bills recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives:

  • "The Students First Act of 2013" (S. 406), introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and cosponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia), would require mandatory reviews be conducted annually by USDE for institutions with issues that include being placed on probation or show cause by their accrediting organization. The bill also requires that USDE establish a central database of information on the accreditation, eligibility and certification of institutions of higher education.

  • "The STEM Jobs Act of 2013" (S. 303), introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), would make up to 55,000 visas available annually for immigrants who either have a doctorate in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a U.S. doctoral institution or have taken all doctoral courses while residing in the United States. For a doctoral degree or coursework to qualify, the institution must be accredited by an accrediting organization recognized either by USDE or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). A similar bill - "The STEM Visa Act of 2013" (H.R. 459) - has been introduced by Representative Darrell Issa (R-California) and also specifies that institutions must be accredited by a USDE- or CHEA-recognized accrediting organization.

GROWTH OF INTERNATIONAL ACCREDITATION ACTIVITY BY U.S. ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS NOTED

A comprehensive article in Inside Higher Ed highlighted the growth of international accreditation activity by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations that review and accredit non-U.S. institutions and programs. The article cited data from the CHEA Almanac Online that, during 2009-2011, U.S. accrediting organizations accredited 857 non-U.S. institutions and programs in 70 countries.

The article noted that while foreign accrediting activities are outside USDE's scope of review, CHEA has standards in its recognition criteria that address the accreditation of non-U.S. institutions and programs by U.S. accrediting organizations. The article also pointed to the recent launch of the CHEA International Quality Group and quoted CHEA President Judith Eaton saying "We really do have an international quality assurance community and the more we can work together internationally, the more we can address common issues."

FLORIDA BILL COULD REQUIRE PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES TO GRANT CREDIT FOR ONLINE COURSES APPROVED BY FLORIDA

A bill is moving forward in the Florida State Senate that could require public colleges and universities to grant credit for online courses not affiliated with their school and, in some cases, not accredited by recognized accrediting organizations. Senate Bill No. 904 was introduced by State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-District 22).

The bill's language states that "any individual, institution, entity or organization" could seek "Florida-accredited" status for courses offered online. The Florida Commissioner of Education and the Chancellor of the State University System would approve each Florida-accredited course and its assessment.

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATION WOULD ENCOURAGE PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS TO GRANT CREDIT FOR MOOC COURSES

Legislation has been introduced in the California State Senate to encourage the state's public higher education institutions to grant credit for approved online courses, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The legislation - Senate Bill No. 520 - was introduced by Darrell Steinberg, President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate.

The bill would establish a California Online Student Access Platform for the purpose of creating a pool of approved and transferable online courses for credit. The bill describes the platform as a "faculty-led process that places the highest priority on educational quality through which online courses can be subjected to high-quality standards and review." It is unclear whether the provisions in the bill calling for public institutions to accept credits from online course providers would be binding.

"OPEN SUNY" SEEKS TO EXPAND ONLINE EDUCATION

The State University of New York (SUNY) has outlined a plan to implement "Open SUNY," bringing online courses offered at each of the systems 64 campuses onto a shared platform to increase access and expand online educational options for students. Open SUNY's final proposal calls for creating options for time-shortened degree completion, expanded use of prior-learning assessment, ensuring affordability, exploring options to grant credit for MOOC courses and other Open Educational Resources and developing a mechanism for assessing student learning and quality of instruction.

A statement issued by the SUNY Board of Trustees noted that more than 86,000 SUNY students registered for at least one online course in 2012. SUNY estimates that Open SUNY will add 100,000 degree-seeking students to the online enrollment total within three years.

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The Federal Update informs CHEA members and interested parties on federal policy developments related to self-regulation and peer review. Please direct any inquiries or comments to Jan Friis, CHEA Vice President for Government Affairs, at friis@chea.org or at (202) 955-6126.

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