Number 39, December 20, 2013


NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY AND INTEGRITY MEETS FOR RECOGNITION REVIEWS OF ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) met in Washington, DC on December 12-13, 2013 to review 10 accrediting organizations and five state agencies for recognition. NACIQI is the advisory body that provides recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting organizations.

NACIQI currently has 17 members, six nominated by the U.S. Senate, six nominated by the House of Representatives and five nominated by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Susan D. Phillips, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York at Albany, serves as NACIQI’s chair; Arthur E. Keiser, Chancellor of Keiser Collegiate System, is the committee’s vice chair.

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 and that these accrediting organizations and state agencies are reliable authorities regarding the quality of the education or training provided by the institutions or programs they accredit. Accrediting organizations and state accreditation approval agencies recognized by USDE act as gatekeepers for federal Title IV funds.

NACIQI members voted to renew recognition of six accrediting organizations and four state accreditation approval agencies on the “consent agenda,” meaning that each of the organizations had submitted a compliance report and no further discussion was required at the meeting:

  • American Podiatric Medical Association
  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.
  • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation
  • Council on Education for Public Health
  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
  • Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education
  • New York State Board of Regents/Nursing Education
  • New York State Board of Regents/Vocational Education
  • North Dakota Board of Nursing
  • Pennsylvania State Board for Vocational Education, Bureau of Career and Technical Education

The committee voted to renew recognition of four accrediting organizations:

  • Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Council on Chiropractic Education
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

NACIQI voted to renew the Council on Chiropractic Education’s recognition for a period of three years and to require the other three accrediting organizations to submit reports within 12 months that demonstrate the accreditor’s compliance with issues identified in USDE staff reports.

Following discussion at the meeting, NACIQI voted to renew recognition of one state accreditation approval agency based on review of a compliance report:

  • Oklahoma Department of Career & Technology Education

In general, NACIQI followed the recommendations contained in USDE staff reports (available on the USDE Website). Recognition decisions are made by a senior USDE official within 90 days of the NACIQI meeting.

SENATE COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS HOLDS HEARING ON ACCREDITATION

On December 12, 2013, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing to address “Accreditation and Quality Assurance: Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Learning.” The hearing was part of a series to prepare for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted in his opening remarks “We need to examine whether the current accreditation system sufficiently guarantees the quality of education students receive at postsecondary institutions.” Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Ranking Member of the committee, asked “Are the accreditors doing some things they don’t need to be doing? And are they spending enough time really focused on quality?”

Key issues addressed during the hearing were the need for greater transparency in the accreditation process, whether the peer review process poses conflicts of interests for reviewers and USDE’s growing emphasis on regulatory compliance by accrediting organizations. An archived Webcast of the hearing and copies of witness testimony are available on the HELP Committee Website.

CHEA PARTICIPATES IN SENATE BRIEFING ON ACCREDITATION

On December 5, 2013, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) participated in a briefing for Republican staff of the Senate HELP Committee. The briefing was designed to provide committee staff with information on accreditation and its operations, as well as to offer policy recommendations in anticipation of HEA reauthorization. Participants were asked to highlight current problems for accreditation and how they should be addressed by the federal government, if appropriate. Other organizations participating in the briefing were the Association of American Universities and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

CHEA’s presentation focused on accreditation’s policies and practices and the laws and regulations governing accreditation and the need to streamline the federal process of recognizing accrediting organizations.

USDE SEEKS SUGGESTIONS ON ADMINISTRATION’S PLANNED COLLEGE RATINGS SYSTEM

CHEA hosted an informal meeting of accrediting organizations on December 11, 2013, to discuss USDE’s proposed College Ratings System and the President’s plan to make higher education more affordable, announced in August, 2013. Deputy Under Secretary of Education Jamienne Studley joined CHEA and the accrediting organizations to share USDE’s thinking to date about the ratings system. She urged all interested parties to provide observations and recommendations to USDE as development of a College Ratings 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. (More information on the ratings plan can be found in Federal Update #38).

Additionally, USDE published a notice in the December 17, 2013 Federal Register that focuses specifically on data needs related to the College Ratings System. USDE is seeking information and suggestions from data experts about data elements, numbers, methods of data collection, methods of weighting or scoring data and presentation frameworks to be used in developing the ratings system. Ratings will be based upon measures including access (the percentage of students receiving federal funds such as Pell grants), affordability (average cost of attendance and student loan debt) and outcomes (graduation and transfer rates and graduate earnings). Comments must be submitted by January 31, 2014, either electronically at www.regulations.gov or by mail to Richard Reeves, National Center for Education Statistics, Attention: Postsecondary Institution Ratings System RFI, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K Street NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20006.

INSTITUTIONS ASKED TO PROPOSE IDEAS FOR USDE EXPERIMENTAL SITES INITIATIVE

On December 6, 2013, USDE published a Federal Register notice inviting higher education institutions to propose ideas for USDE’s ongoing Experimental Sites Initiative. USDE will grant waivers from regulations governing federal financial aid to a limited number of higher education institutions, allowing them to experiment with alternative forms of measuring student learning, such as competency-based education. Based on suggestions submitted, USDE will design experiments to test alternative financial aid administration methods as well as corresponding evaluation plans. Submissions must be sent to experimentalsites@ed.gov no later than January 31, 2014.

NEGOTIATED RULEMAKING ON GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT CONCLUDES

The final session of a negotiated rulemaking committee to draft regulations on gainful employment met on December 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. "Negotiated rulemaking" is a process by which the federal government consults with key constituents as part of drafting or revising regulations. Previous sessions of the negotiated rulemaking committee were held September 9-11 and November 18-20, 2013. "Gainful employment" regulations, intended to capture information about earnings and indebtedness, would establish standards for programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation and measure employment outcomes.

At its final session, USDE presented the negotiated rulemaking committee with an analysis of the anticipated impact of the proposed rules. The analysis indicated that, of an estimated 11,735 programs subject to the draft gainful employment regulations, 1,496 programs (13 percent) would fail to meet the established requirements, making them ineligible for federal student aid.

The negotiated rulemaking committee did not reach unanimous agreement on all regulatory proposals being considered, leaving USDE in a position to propose new regulations or revise the set of regulations considered by the committee.

USDE ANNOUNCES NEGOTIATED RULEMAKING ON STATE AUTHORIZATION AND USE OF STUDENT AID PROGRAM FUNDS

On November 20, 2013, USDE published a notice in the Federal Register of a negotiated rulemaking committee to develop proposed regulations that will address issues including state authorization of courses and programs offered through distance education or correspondence education and for foreign locations of institutions located in a state. The regulations to be developed by the negotiated rulemaking are designed to prevent fraud and otherwise ensure proper use of Title IV federal student aid program funds.

USDE noted that the negotiated rulemaking committee is likely to address additional topics that include the use of debit cards and the handling of Title IV credit balances, clock to credit hour conversion and the definition of ‘‘adverse credit’’ for borrowers in the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program. The committee will meet in Washington, DC on February 19-21, March 26-28 and April 23-25, 2014.

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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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