U.S. Department of Education holds public hearings on regulatory rollback, CHEA provides comments on USDE regulatory reform agenda

Publication Number 61 October 12, 2017

In This Issue:

USDE Holds Public Hearing on Regulatory Rollbackusde seal

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) held public hearings in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 25, 2017 and in Washington, DC on October 4, 2017 as part of its effort to gather information and comments on department regulations related to postsecondary education.

At the Washington, DC public hearing, a significant number of speakers addressed Title IX enforcement around sexual assault enforcement and civil rights. Several speakers expressed the desire to have accreditation be more outcomes-focused. Other speakers urged the removal of the federal definition of credit hour, while others commented on the gainful employment and borrowers defense rules.

CHEA Provides Comments to USDE on Regulatory Reform Agenda

registerIn response to USDE’s Federal Register notice requesting public comment “on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification,” the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) sent comments to USDE on September 20, 2017 addressing regulations involving accreditation that should be modified or repealed.

CHEA stated that “USDE emphasis on accreditation as an agent of compliance rather than quality assurance undermines the fundamental effectiveness of this enterprise to provide higher education of value and quality to students.” In its comments, CHEA recommended a number of modifications to current regulations. Additional suggestions were presented in the CHEA Position Paper on Regulatory Relief for Accreditation, which CHEA also provided to USDE.

Innovation in Accreditation Act Introduced in U.S. House of Representatives

capitolOn September 28, 2017 Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Alabama) introduced H.R. 3869, the Innovation in Accreditation Act as an amendment to the Higher Education Act. The bill would allow accrediting organizations to seek waivers of some federal regulations for innovative practices intended to reduce "administrative burdens" for institutions and “improve the delivery of services to students, improve instruction or learning outcomes.”

At its request, CHEA provided information and suggestions to Congressman Byrne’s office in the preparation of this legislation. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, of which Byrne is a member.

New Meeting Date for National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)

USDE’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) announced that it has changed its next meeting from December 2017 to a tentatively scheduled meeting on February 7- 9, 2018. NACIQI is the advisory body that provides recommendations to the Secretary of Education on recognition of accrediting organizations. Recognition by USDE affirms that the standards and processes of accrediting organizations and state accreditation approval agencies demonstrate compliance with USDE's criteria.

Currently, NACIQI is authorized by Congress through December 8, 2017 and will need to receive continuing authorization from Congress before holding the planned February meeting.

zais picMitchell Zais Nominated as Deputy Secretary of Education

Mitchell Zais was nominated by President Donald Trump on October 5, 2017 to serve as USDE Deputy Secretary. Zais served as South Carolina Superintendent of Education from 2011 to 2015. Previously, he was president of Newberry College for 10 years. Zais served 31 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Brigadier General. His nomination as Deputy Secretary requires approval by the U.S. Senate. 

SENATE LABOR-HHS APPROPRIATIONS Bill May Provide ACICS-Accredited Institutions Additional Time to Seek New Accreditation

On September 7, 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the FY2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill (S.1771). The bill contains a provision that offers an additional 18 months for institutions accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to find a new accrediting organization “if the institution does not remain with or reapply to the accrediting agency which accredited the institution on December 12, 2016.” Currently, institutions have 18 months from December 12, 2016 (when USDE withdrew ACICS recognition) to find a new accrediting organization or lose eligibility for Title IV federal student aid funds. The extension does not apply to institutions that continue to seek accreditation from ACICS.

ACICS Applies for USDE Recognition

On October 4, 2017, ACICS announced that it had applied for recognition by USDE. In a statement, Michelle Edwards, the new ACICS President, said "ACICS has strengthened its standards to be clear that institutions must come into compliance with the council’s standards within specified time frames or accreditation will be withdrawn." ACICS is requesting that it be included on the Spring 2018 NACIQI agenda.