NAICU Washington Update

Not With a Bang but a Whimper - Negotiated Rulemaking on Accreditation Ends

June 06, 2007

The fourth and final accreditation negotiated rulemaking session simply ended when the clock ran out at 5 p.m., June 1. No vote was taken on a final package, but it was clear there would not have been consensus among the negotiators had such a vote been taken.

It was an anti-climactic ending to a highly contentious process that began in February. (See WIR - 2/28/07, 4/04/07, 5/08/07.) Of greatest concern to NAICU members, as well as our colleagues in public higher education, was the effort by the Department of Education to use this process to:

  • Impose rigid measures of student learning on institutions via the accreditation process; 
  • Tighten the Department's reins over accreditation agencies (and ultimately over institutions) by strengthening its power and that of the National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) in the agency recognition process; and
  • Exceed its statutory authority by regulating institutional transfer-of-credit policies.

A white paper prepared by the six presidential associations last month offers more details about these serious concerns.

The final session dealt almost exclusively with the recognition of accreditors, and came on the heels of the semi-annual meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). Although less obvious than in its earlier efforts to push an outcome measures agenda (see WIR 12/18/06), NACIQI sent what was seen by many as a warning shot to regional accreditors in its recommendation that recognition be withdrawn from the Commission on Technical and Career Institutions of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

The Department's stance on regulations governing the recognition process met with what appeared to be the unanimous opposition of the other negotiators. A lengthy day of discussions ended with no movement in position by either side.

The next step in the process will be publication of proposed regulations in the Federal Register, probably later this month. We will alert NAICU members when these proposals are published. If - as we expect they will - the proposed regulations reflect the Department's determination to transform accreditation from a peer review system to a federal regulatory process, we will be calling upon you for your active opposition.


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