NAICU Washington Update

Department of Education Seeks Public Comment on Accreditation Information Collection

April 08, 2016

The Department of Education is soliciting public comment on a draft letter it intends to send to all federally recognized accrediting agencies clarifying terminology used by accreditors. The letter also provides guidance to accreditors on information they must report to the Department.

Comments will remain open until June 6, 2016 and may be submitted here.

The letter outlines several detailed changes aimed at enhancing the communication between the Department and accreditors to better identify underperforming institutions. The purpose of the increased reporting is to “enable the U.S. Department of Education to monitor more effectively both institutions and their accrediting agencies, and to better protect students, families, and taxpayers.”

While the Department lacks the executive authority to require uniform definitions across bodies, it reviewed the terminology used by accreditors in order to: (1) categorize terms with similar or related meanings based on their implications for institutions; and (2) clarify which actions accreditors are required to report, without regard to the specific label the accreditor may use.

According to the letter, the Department believes that Congress intended accrediting agencies to report on the following six categories, via the Higher Education Act:

  1. Required Reporting on Loss of Accreditation
  2. Required Reporting on Probation and Equivalent Agency Actions
  3. Requested Reporting on other Factors That Affect Student Success
  4. Submission of Information to the Department Separated by Severity
  5. Required Reporting on Agency Information on Title IV Issues
  6. Fields and Formatting for Reporting to the Department of Education

Most of the Department’s requirements are already practiced by accreditors under standard operating procedures. However, the letter substantially increases the standardization and breadth of reporting for the accrediting agencies.

The letter also indicated the Department is planning to provide guidance on differentiated accreditation flexibility later this spring.

Additional Resources

Additional Accreditation Reforms Offered by Education Department (Washington Update, Feb. 11, 2016)

Department of Education Unveils Plans for Accreditation Reform (Washington Update, Nov. 6, 2015)

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