Negotiated Rulemaking on Accreditation Forthcoming
In This Issue:
- Negotiated Rulemaking on Accreditation Forthcoming
- Office of the Inspector General Reports on USDE Oversight of Accrediting Organizations
- USDE Promotes Senior Advisor
- Update on the PROSPER Act
In June, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced it is proposing to “amend, through negotiated rulemaking, the regulations related to the Secretary’s recognition of accrediting agencies and accreditation procedures as a component of institutional eligibility for participation on Federal student financial aid under title IV of the Higher Education Act.” As part of that process, USDE will announce a schedule for public hearings in the Federal Register later this summer.
In a June Roundtable with Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) members and recognized accrediting organizations, Diane Auer Jones, USDE Senior Adviser to the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education (see item below), said that USDE is studying accreditation and USDE regulations concerning recognizing accreditors. The public hearings will explore the accreditation-federal government relationship and how this might change.
On June 27, 2018, USDE’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published a final audit report titled U.S. Department of Education’s Recognition and Oversight of Accrediting Agencies. OIG maintained that the Office of Postsecondary Education’s (OPE’s) “process did not provide reasonable assurance that the Department recognized only agencies meeting Federal recognition criteria.”
In OIG’s view, there are weaknesses in OPE’s petition review process, including:
- Permitting accrediting organizations to select the institutions used to demonstrate they have effective mechanisms for evaluating compliance with agency accreditation standards.
- Allowing accreditors to submit documentation for as few as two schools to demonstrate that the accreditor has effective mechanisms for evaluating compliance with standards.
- A lack of written policies and procedures for review of recognition petitions, which could lead to inconsistencies in reviews.
- A lack of post-recognition oversight of accrediting organizations.
OIG recommended applying risk-based procedures to identify how many schools accreditors must use to demonstrate the effectiveness of their compliance evaluation mechanisms; requiring USDE’s Accreditation Group to develop written policies and procedures for reviewing recognition petitions; and using a risk-based methodology to identify high-risk accreditors and prioritize its oversight of those agencies.
Diane Auer Jones has been promoted to acting USDE Under Secretary of Education. As part of this appointment, she will have the delegated authority of the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.
The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508) was introduced on December 1, 2017 by Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee. The 602-page bill – a major overhaul of the Higher Education Act (HEA) – was approved by the Committee in late December 2017.
In June 2018, House Republican leadership met to determine member support for bringing the bill to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives. There have been no subsequent official statements from House leadership or from Congresswoman Foxx, and the bill has not been scheduled for a floor vote at this time. HEA was last reauthorized in 2008.