New Under Secretary of Education Confirmed and Updates on Federal Policy Issues

Publication Number 42 June 20, 2014


On May 8, 2014, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ted Mitchell as Under Secretary of Education. The Under Secretary coordinates policies, programs and activities related to postsecondary education, career-technical education, adult education and federal student aid and oversees higher education accreditation, including recognition of accrediting organizations by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Mitchell formerly served as CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund and was president of Occidental College.

Mitchell will be the opening speaker on June 25 at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2014 Summer Workshop in Washington, DC, addressing federal policy and accreditation-related issues from USDE’s perspective.


USDE’s 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 sought information and recommendations from CHEA regarding accreditation policy. NACIQI is reviewing its 2012 report and policy recommendations to the Secretary of Education (see Federal Update #26) to see if the recommendations remain appropriate in light of the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

NACIQI requested that CHEA President Judith Eaton and other accreditation stakeholders submit papers in advance of the committee’s June 18-19, 2014 meeting on “the most important considerations in advancing quality assurance” to help NACIQI craft further policy recommendations for USDE. In her paper, Eaton noted that “NACIQI can serve as the thought leader in addressing current educational quality issues through (1) taking a fresh look at law and regulation affecting accreditation, (2) establishing a new foundation for national expectations of accreditation through articulation of guiding principles and (3) offering a new distribution of responsibilities among the major actors that play a role in the accreditation-federal government relationship.”

Eaton also testified at NACIQI’s June 18-19, 2014 meeting in Washington, DC. Eaton was one of several higher education and accreditation representatives asked to make presentations at the meeting. NACIQI plans to make additional accreditation policy recommendations to the Secretary of Education later this year.


NACIQI met in Washington, DC on June 18-19, 2014 to review 13 accrediting organizations and three state agencies for federal recognition. Accrediting organizations and state agencies recognized by USDE act as gatekeepers for Title IV and other federal funds.

At the meeting, NACIQI members voted to renew recognition for nine accrediting organizations and two state agencies based on compliance reports submitted to NACIQI:

  • Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)
  • Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
  • American Physical Therapy Association, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
  • Association for Biblical Higher Education, Commission on Accreditation (ABHE)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
  • Maryland Board of Nursing (MDBN)
  • Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools (MS-CCS)
  • Missouri State Board of Nursing (MOSBN)
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)

NACIQI members voted to continue recognition of three accrediting organizations, while requiring them to come into compliance with USDE recognition standards within 12 months and submit a compliance report:

  • National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD)
  • National Association of Schools of Theater (NAST)
  • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)

The committee also voted to extend recognition for one accrediting organization and one state agency for six months, with a compliance report required at the end of the extension and reconsideration of recognition status thereafter:

  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Puerto Rico State Agency for the Approval of Public Postsecondary Vocational, Technical Institutions, and Programs (PRHRDC)

USDE staff reports to NACIQI are available on the USDE Website. Recognition decisions are made by a senior USDE official within 90 days of the NACIQI meeting.


In November 2013, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) announced the creation of a Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education. The Task Force, made up of college and university presidents, will provide advice to Congress about “costly, duplicative, confusing and excessive government regulations with specific suggestions for addressing the problem.” CHEA is working with the Task Force to address accreditation-related regulations.

CHEA hosted a meeting on May 21, 2014 for all CHEA- and USDE-recognized accrediting organizations to discuss regulations that might be modified or removed. The group identified a number of regulatory issues, including removal of the credit hour definition and state authorization for distance education requirements in statute and regulation. CHEA participated in a June 6, 2014 meeting of the full Task Force to consider a number of recommendations in many areas of higher education. The group's recommendations will be reviewed for incorporation in a final Task Force report to Congress, to be completed by late 2014.


Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have voiced opposition to USDE’s proposed College Ratings System, announced in August 2013 (see Federal Update #38).

On June 12, 2014, Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced his plans to attach an amendment to the FY 2015 education appropriations bill that would prohibit USDE from using federal funds to develop or implement a college ratings system. Additionally, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Michael Capuano (D-MA) introduced a resolution on June 10, 2014 opposing the college ratings system.

In May, Deputy Under Secretary of Education Jamienne Studley wrote in a blog posting that USDE now plans to come out with a proposal for the college ratings system in the Fall of 2014. The community will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal. Studley noted that USDE still plans to have the final version of the new ratings system in place before the 2015-2016 school year.


A USDE negotiated rulemaking addressing state authorization of courses and programs offered through distance education or correspondence education and for foreign locations of institutions located in a state concluded with a meeting held May 19-20, 2014. This was the fourth meeting of the negotiated rulemaking committee that began meeting in February 2014.

Under new program integrity regulations proposed by USDE, online educational offerings by institutions would require regulatory approval from every state in which they enroll students. The revised rules would require that each branch campus or additional location in a foreign country be legally authorized to operate by an appropriate authority in that country and be approved by the institution’s recognized accrediting organization. The proposed regulatory language is available on USDE’s Website.

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.