Number 38, November 13, 2013


ADMINISTRATION BEGINS WORK TO DEVELOP COLLEGE RATING SYSTEM

President Obama’s plan to make higher education more affordable, announced in August, 2013, includes a proposed college rating system to provide data to the public for use in choosing which college or university to attend. The rating system is also intended to tie financial aid to college performance and value. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) hopes to have drafted a potential model of a rating system that will be available for review and comment by Spring 2014 and roll out its rating system in January 2015.

The rating system is intended to identify institutions that provide “good value,” focusing on access, affordability and student outcomes – including graduation and transfer rates, completion of advanced degrees and the kinds of jobs where graduates are employed and their level of earnings. Issues of concern include the quality of the data to be used, what data to use and the relationship of the rating system to accreditation. The extent to which the rating system is to focus on academic quality is not clear.

In a speech delivered at the State University of New York at Buffalo on August 22, 2013, President Obama stated that the rating system will “deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up.”

USDE has initiated a series of public forums to gather views and comments on the plan to create a college rating system. Forums were held on November 6, 2013 at California State University – Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles, CA and on November 13 at George Mason University, Arlington, VA. Additional forums will be held at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA on November 15 and at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA on November 21.

A college rating system has the potential to have a significant impact on accredited colleges and universities as well as on accrediting organizations. It is important for presidents, chancellors and other institutional leaders to provide comment to USDE as development of the system progresses. Comments can be sent by email to collegefeedback@ed.gov or by mail to the U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 7E313, Washington, DC 20202-0001.

SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS HOLDS HEARING ON INNOVATION AND STUDENT SUCCESS

On October 31, 2013, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing to address “Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success.” The hearing was part of a series to prepare for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, likely to begin in earnest in 2014.

In his opening statement, HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) said “We all need to take a tough look at reimagining how our higher education system can work better. But I would also caution that we should not waste time entertaining innovation for the sake of innovation.” Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) urged the repeal of regulation that prevents higher education institutions from adopting more innovative approaches to education.

An archived Webcast of the hearing and copies of witness testimony are available on the HELP Committee Website.

NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY AND INTEGRITY TO MEET IN WASHINGTON, DC

USDE has announced that the next meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will be held December 12-13, 2013 at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel in Washington, DC. NACIQI is the advisory body that provides recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting organizations.

At the meeting, NACIQI members will review USDE staff recommendations regarding recognition decisions, including:

Petition for Initial Accreditation: Association of Institutions for Jewish Studies.

Petition for Continued Recognition: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs; Council on Education for Public Health; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges; and the North Dakota Board of Nursing.

Petition for Recognition Based on a Compliance Report: American Podiatric Medical Association; Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.; Commission on English Language Program Accreditation; Council on Chiropractic Education; Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology; Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education; New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions (Nursing Education); New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions (Public Postsecondary Vocational Education, Practical Nursing); Oklahoma Board of Career and Technology Education; and the Pennsylvania State Board of Vocational Education, Bureau of Career and Technical Education.

Recognition by USDE affirms that the standards and processes of accrediting organizations and state accreditation approval agencies demonstrate compliance with USDE's criteria for recognition.

HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONS PROVIDE COMMENTS TO CONGRESS ON 2014 FEDERAL BUDGET

Thirty-four higher education associations sent a letter to U.S. House of Representatives and Senate budget committee leaders encouraging Congress to eliminate the FY 2014 sequester reductions to the U.S. budget and to provide a greater level of federal funding for science education and research and development. CHEA signed the letter, which was coordinated by the American Council on Education and sent on November 1, 2013 to Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Committee on the Budget and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. The letter urges Congress “to reaffirm the federal commitment to higher education and research that placed the United States at the top of the global economy.”

U.S. SENATOR TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION PERMITTING STATES TO CREATE ALTERNATIVE ACCREDITATION SYSTEMS

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has announced that he will introduce legislation that would allow states to create alternative accreditation systems “to open up new options for students qualifying for federal aid.” Lee made his announcement in a speech delivered at the Heritage Foundation on October 29, 2013, saying that he would introduce a bill “in the coming days.”

In his remarks, Lee noted that, under his bill, the existing system of accreditation would remain unchanged, but states would have the option to accredit specialized programs, individual courses, apprenticeships, professional credentialing, competency-based tests, online courses or “hybrid models with elements on- and off-campus.” Other organizations that would be eligible to accredit courses and programs would be qualified unions, businesses, trade groups, churches and charities. States would enter into agreements with USDE so that students in such courses of programs would be eligible for federal student aid.

CHEA will follow this legislative proposal closely and will keep member institutions and recognized accrediting organizations informed.

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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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