NAICU Washington Update

Accreditation: Negotiated Rulemaking, Round 3

May 09, 2007

Continuing an ongoing saga in which the Department of Education and a group of conferees are attempting to negotiate rules around accreditation, the panel's third set of sessions, held April 24-26, featured both high drama and further exchanges of language dealing with performance measures - but ultimately failed to produce consensus. A fourth session has now been scheduled.

The drama was provided when Judith Eaton, president of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), informed fellow negotiators that the Department of Education's chief negotiator had suggested that she resign from the panel due to her opposition to the regulation of transfer of credit policies. The Department official, Vickie Schray, denied having asked for Eaton's resignation, indicating that she had merely mentioned it as one of several options available to all negotiators. Schray said that she wanted to be sure that Eaton understand all of her options, as she seemed "distressed" about her decision to withhold consensus on the transfer of credit issue.

Eaton, along with Susan Zlotlow, director of the American Psychological Association's office of program consultation and accreditation, dissented from the "final offer" made by the Department of Education with respect to measurement of student achievement (see proposed regulatory language). This proposal is more subtle than previous proposals by the Department, but remains highly troublesome in that it pushes a level of uniformity among institutions and a reliance on rigid measurement that would be damaging to the diversity and creativity that characterizes American higher education.

This view is widely shared by institutional leaders in both the public and private sectors of higher education. NAICU has joined the other presidential associations in developing a joint statement outlining our reasons for believing that the Department of Education is using the negotiated rulemaking process to seek unprecedented control over the accreditation process (also see separate talking points document).  When proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register, NAICU will ask members to comment on them.

Although the negotiating sessions were scheduled to conclude on April 26, the committee will now meet for an extra day, on June 1. The main focus of this fourth session will be proposed regulations dealing with procedures governing the process by which the Department of Education recognizes accreditation agencies. There was near-unanimous opposition among the negotiators to these proposals on the basis that they reduced due process protections for accreditors while substantially increasing the control of the Department and its accreditation advisory body, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), over accreditation agencies.

MORE News from NAICU