NAICU Washington Update

NACIQI Takes a Fresh Look at Accreditation Recommendations

June 27, 2014

A strong and independent accreditation system is vitally important to maintaining both the quality and diversity of American higher education was the message NAICU delivered recently in testimony before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).

The Committee has begun to take a fresh look at its Higher Education Act reauthorization recommendations to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The Committee had submitted a series of preliminary recommendations in June 2012.

To start the process, the Committee invited representatives of institutions, accreditation agencies, and other organizations to present testimony.

The NAICU presentation emphasized the critical role of accreditation in allowing a diverse set of institutions to flourish and expressed concern that the growing number of federal mandates on accreditors threatens to transform them into federal compliance officers.

Following these presentations, NACIQI members engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of the direction their review should take. They ultimately settled on four broad categories to be fleshed out in the coming months:

  1. Simplifying the accreditation process
  2. Permitting nuance in accreditation
  3. Examining the balance between compliance and quality assurance and among the various actors who have or seek federal financial support
  4. Considering an appropriate policy role for NACIQI.

In related accreditation activity, the draft reauthorization proposal being circulated by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) would require accreditors to publish on their websites all major accreditation documents, including:

  1. Any self-study report that includes assessment of educational quality
  2. Any on-site review report, including the response from the institution
  3. Any written report dealing with an institution’s compliance with agency standards and with its performance with respect to student achievement
  4. All documents related to any adverse action taken against an institution.

NAICU has long opposed general disclosures of accreditation findings, due to concern that doing so would substantially change the nature of the accreditation process and undermine the frankness and candor that help make the process successful.

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