USDE Publishes Proposed Accreditation Regulations

Publication Number 78 June 14, 2019

USDEOn June 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) published proposed regulations on accreditation, innovation and other topics, reflecting the draft consensus language approved by the negotiated rulemaking committee that met earlier this year.

Negotiated rulemaking is the process used by USDE for stakeholder representatives to meet with USDE to negotiate the terms of a proposed administrative rule or regulatory change. Following consideration and discussion, the committee reached consensus on April 3, 2019. (For more information, see Federal Update #76)

There are a number of broad areas where accreditation will be directly affected by the proposed regulations. The regulations would:

  • Increase expectations by USDE concerning student achievement.
  • Provide more flexibility for innovation for institutions and accrediting organizations.
  • Protect students through enhanced disclosure and teach-out requirements.
  • Simplify substantive change provisions.
  • Change provisions for respect of religious mission.
  • Alter direct assessment regulations.
  • Increase the time for institutions and programs to come into compliance with accreditation requirements.
  • Require arbitration of accreditation decisions prior to any litigation.
  • Require more transparency regarding where regional accrediting organizations operate.
  • Simplify and balance the recognition process for both USDE and accrediting organizations.
  • Protect students through enhanced disclosure and teach-out requirements.
  • Provide a simpler path for new accrediting organizations to gain recognition.
  • Open the door to student aid for non-institutional educational offerings.

For additional commentary on USDE’s proposed regulations, see Accreditation in the News (June 12, 2019).

A public comment period began on June 12, 2019 and runs until July 12, 2019. Go to to submit comments electronically. For the rule to take effect on July 1, 2020, the final rule must be published in the Federal Register by November 1, 2019.


Chris MurphySen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued a white paper on June 11, 2019 outlining his ideas for an accountability framework: expanding accountability for colleges and universities while maintaining access for low-income students. He noted that these proposals could be addressed in legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Addressing what he termed a quality and completion crisis, Murphy’s proposal would set minimum expectations for federal standards regarding completion (establishing a graduation bright line of 20 percent), value (whether return on investment to students and taxpayers is commensurate with the price of attendance) and spending by institutions (described as measuring tuition per student against spending on instruction per student). Institutions that spend less than one-third of every tuition dollar on instruction would need to post warnings on their websites and application materials and, if the spending did not increase, would lose access to federal financial aid over time. Murphy states that “federal policy can certainly set floors that would reasonably incentivize student success.”

Murphy also stressed the need to preserve access for low-income students and minority students. Institutions whose Pell enrollments declined significantly over a three-year period would face fines and potential loss of access to some federal campus-based aid programs. Accrediting organizations would be called upon to provide feedback and technical assistance to institutions in meeting these accountability requirements, as well as sharing best practices among institutions in order to increase college completion rates, particularly for low-income students, first-generation students and students of color.