NAICU Washington Update

Additional Accreditation Reforms Offered by Education Department

February 11, 2016

In early February, the Department of Education publicly released a series of reforms aimed at further strengthening the accreditation process. The changes build off the previously outlined mandates released in November 2015.  

The new requirements—released via memo from Acting Education Secretary John King, Jr. — outline three specific recommendations designed for “shared action to improve accreditation”: 

  1. Information-Sharing and Coordination: The Department and the accreditors have drafted an information-sharing framework and agreed to jointly develop plans for regular meetings and information-sharing, including information regarding schools that may be facing negative actions.
  2. Flexibility and Differentiated Reviews: The Department will release further guidance within 120 days to clarify acceptable practices for differentiated accreditation review. The Department will encourage accreditors on specific criteria, such as historical record and outcomes, when applying differentiated flexibility to institutions.
  3. Additional Actions to Increase Accreditor Rigor: The Department will release further guidance within 120 days to increase the rigor of the Department’s processes to determine whether an accrediting agency is “effective.”

Since two of the recommendations involve further guidance from the Department, it is difficult to gauge the immediate impact of these reforms. 

Regarding the Department’s plans to increase accreditor rigor for executive recognition, it is unclear whether these changes would be enacted via changes to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) or through secretarial power. NACIQI was created by Congress in 1992 explicitly to advise the Secretary on accreditor recognition. However, final say over accreditor recognition by the federal government lies solely with the Secretary.  

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