National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity Releases Final Report on Accreditation

Publication Number 26 June 20, 2012


The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) - the advisory body that provides recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting organizations - has released its final report on accreditation considerations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The report offers observations and recommendations in areas including the role of federal and state governments in quality assurance, the role and scope of accrediting organizations, data as an essential tool in quality assurance and public information and NACIQI's role as a federal advisory body. Included with the report is an alternative draft submitted by NACIQI Vice Chair Arthur Rothkopf and by committee member Anne Neal that was not approved.

The report is the result of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's request in December, 2010 that NACIQI develop recommendations regarding the current system of recognition and accreditation. NACIQI held a series of meetings and issued several report drafts prior to voting to approve the final report on April 13, 2012. During this process, CHEA's President Judith Eaton testified before the committee and CHEA submitted comments on the draft report. CHEA also coordinated comments submitted on March 16, 2012 and on November 23, 2011 signed by regional, national and programmatic accrediting organizations.


NACIQI will hold a public meeting on June 25-26, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia to review compliance reports and consider petitions for renewal of recognition for 14 accrediting bodies.

The accrediting organizations scheduled for review at the two-day meeting include:  

  • Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education
  • Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
  • American Dental Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Distance Education and Training Council
  • Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
  • National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences
  • National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Additionally, a state approval agency - the Puerto Rico State Agency for Approval of Public Postsecondary, Vocational, Technical Institutions and Programs - will be reviewed.

USDE staff reports with recommendations to NACIQI are available on the USDE Website.


On June 5, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the U.S. Department of Education's (USDE) recent state authorization regulations related to distance education. The ruling came as part of a Court of Appeals decision addressing USDE's program integrity rules, which had been challenged by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

The Court determined that, because USDE's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish state authorization did not specifically address distance education or solicit public comments about the new regulations, higher education institutions and others with an interest in this issue were not provided an adequate opportunity to respond.

CHEA and others in the higher education and accreditation communities have long urged USDE to rescind the state authorization requirements. On February 28, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to repeal USDE's state authorization and credit hour regulations, by a strong bipartisan majority. Similar legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, but is unlikely to be considered this year.

The Court of Appeals decision also struck down new regulations concerning misrepresentation (currently defined as false, erroneous or misleading statements made by an institution to students, prospective students or their families), noting that the regulations exceed USDE's authority. USDE's existing standard for misrepresentation was expanded by the new regulations to include "any statement that has the likelihood or tendency to deceive or confuse." The Court of Appeals rejected this new definition of misrepresentation as being unsupported by existing law. In a June, 2010 issue of the Federal Update CHEA cited the new misrepresentation regulations as an issue that could have a significant impact on accrediting organizations and the institutions and programs they accredit.


On May 1, 2012, USDE published a Federal Register notice announcing their intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking to prepare proposed regulations for the federal student aid programs. In the notice, USDE stated that the intent is to develop regulations designed to prevent fraud within the context of technologies such as those used in distance education. A particular focus will be regulations to address the use of debit cards and other banking mechanisms for disbursing federal student aid funds, with USDE noting interest in determining whether the use of electronic funds transfer can provide a means to help prevent fraud or identify those involved in fraud rings.

In advance of the negotiated rulemaking, USDE held public hearings - in Phoenix, Arizona on May 23, 2012 and in Washington, DC on May 31, 2012 -  for interested parties to discuss the rulemaking agenda. An announcement of the agenda and dates for the negotiated rulemaking committee to meet, as well as a request for nominees to serve on the committee, will be forthcoming.


This summer, USDE is expected to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing teacher preparation issues including the TEACH Grant Program and assessment and reporting requirements for teacher education programs. The notice - which will be published in the Federal Register - will provide institutions, accrediting organizations and other interested parties with an opportunity to comment on the regulations to be proposed by USDE.

A USDE negotiated rulemaking committee met from January-April 2012 to consider USDE's proposed teacher preparation regulations. "Negotiated rulemaking" is a process by which the federal government consults with key constituents as part of drafting or revising regulations that implement legislation passed by Congress. Failure by the committee to reach unanimous agreement on all regulatory proposals being considered means that USDE can propose the new regulations as considered by the committee or revise them.

The final meeting of the negotiated rulemaking committee took place April 3-5, 2012 in Washington, DC. The meeting ended with disagreement on a number of new regulatory provisions, but the committee agreed to try again to reach consensus during a follow-up meeting by conference call. After the committee met again by conference call on April 12, 2012, USDE determined that consensus could not be reached.