Reports on CHEA 2015 Summer Workshop, Recent Senate HELP Committee Hearing, National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) Meeting and Other Federal Issues.

Publication Number 48 July 9, 2015


“We in accreditation need to do more to protect students,” Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), said in opening remarks at the CHEA 2015 Summer Workshop, held June 23-24, 2015 in Washington, DC (see item below).

Eaton noted that Congress, policy makers and the press continue to raise questions about how institutions and programs can achieve or retain accredited status in the face of poor performance as measured by graduation rates or completion of other educational goals, student debt and student loan default rates. “The job of protecting students may serve as the foundation of a discussion of the future role of accreditation, including its gatekeeping function for Title IV student aid,” she stated. Coverage of her remarks was featured in The Wall Street Journal and Inside Higher Ed.

USDE to Release College Ratings System by End of Summer, Says USDE Under Secretary

On June 25, 2015, U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Deputy Under Secretary Jamienne Studley outlined in a blog posting on USDE’s Website a revised college ratings plan to be released later this summer. As described by Studley, USDE will release “new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes.” Existing data that USDE collects will be used. USDE will not create a scoring system that rates colleges and universities in high-performing, low-performing and middle categories, as USDE officials had previously said was being considered.


The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on accreditation on June 17, 2015. “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Evaluating Accreditation’s Role in Ensuring Quality” featured testimony by George Pruitt, President of Thomas Edison State College; Peter Ewell, Vice President of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; Albert Gray, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools; and Anne Neal, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

There was considerable discussion at the hearing concerning accreditation’s role related to student achievement, student debt and default rates. Both HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned whether accreditation is currently effective in assuring the quality of education provided to students and other senators expressed concern over whether accreditors act promptly when made aware of allegations of impropriety by institutions they accredit. A Webcast of the hearing is available on the HELP Committee Website.

House and Senate Appropriations Bills Contain Language to Roll Back or Block Funding for Several USDE Initiatives and Regulations

FY2016 appropriations bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate (for the year beginning October 1, 2015) both contain language seeking to roll back or block funding for USDE’s development of a college ratings system, gainful employment, new requirements for state authorization of higher education institutions, definition of credit hour and proposed new regulations for teacher preparation programs. The House Appropriations Committee approved its funding bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies on June 24, 2015. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its funding bill for the same departments on June 25, 2015. The bills now move to the full House of Representatives and Senate for consideration.  

Speakers at CHEA 2015 Summer Workshop Address Range of Issues Related to Accreditation

The CHEA 2015 Summer Workshop, held June 23-24 in Washington, DC, featured speakers from Capitol Hill, the administration, accrediting organizations, higher education institutions and business, including:

  • Jamienne Studley, USDE Deputy Under Secretary of Education, who addressed issues including the importance of maintaining public confidence in accreditation and USDE’s college ratings system.
  • Amy Jones, Director of Education and Human Services Policy for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and Andrew LaCasse, Education Policy Advisor for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, who outlined plans by both chambers of Congress to introduce legislation this year to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) and how those bills might address accreditation.
  • Michael Goldstein, Co-Chair of the Higher Education Practice at Cooley LLP, who spoke about new education providers whose business models and structures vary from those of traditional higher education institutions.
  • A panel discussion of accreditation’s gatekeeping role and how federal regulations governing accreditation might be reduced, featuring Clara Lovett, President Emerita of Northern Arizona University; Susan Phillips, Chair of USDE’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) and Vice President of University at Albany, SUNY and Health Science Center at Brooklyn, SUNY; Barbara Brittingham, President of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; Mary Jane Harris, recently retired Director of the American Physical Therapy Association Accreditation Department; and Neil Harvison, Chief Academic and Scientific Affairs Officer of the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.   


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 – met on June 25-26, 2015 to review nine accrediting organizations for federal recognition or expansion of recognized scope of activities. Accrediting organizations and state agencies recognized by USDE act as gatekeepers for Title IV and other federal funds.

At the meeting, NACIQ members voted to:

  • Renew recognition for two and a half years, based on a compliance report, of the American Optometric Association, Accreditation Council on Optometric Education; the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, Accreditation Commission; The Higher Learning Commission; and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.
  • Renew recognition for four years, based on a compliance report, of the National Association of Schools of Dance, Commission on Accreditation; the National Association of Schools of Music, Commission on Accreditation; and the National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation.
  • Approve an expansion of scope for the American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation.
  • Withdraw federal recognition of the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, with the record remaining open for three months to permit additional information to be submitted.

Final staff reports are available on the USDE Website.

USDE Under Secretary Ted Mitchell spoke at the NACIQI meeting, addressing a range of issues including ratings, gainful employment, state authorization, risk-based accreditation, common definitions of terms used by accreditors, transparency, better communication between USDE and accreditation and non-institutional higher education offerings.

Committee members discussed obtaining more information about what accrediting organizations are doing related to student achievement, what data accreditors are collecting and how accrediting organizations are focusing on student performance.

NACIQI also voted to revise and approve its report on recommendations for accreditation recognition policy and practice. A draft report was first issued on January 2, 2015. The committee reviewed recommendations 1-11 in the report at an open online meeting on March 23, 2015 and at this meeting reviewed the rest of the recommendations (12-17), including a differentiated approach to Title IV student aid that might, e.g., make funding available to new institutions more readily, making NACIQI the final decision-making authority on accrediting agency recognition and establishing that the committee will meet with the Secretary of Education and other USDE officials on policy issues beyond recognition of accreditors. The final report will be posted to USDE’s Website.