NAICU Washington Update

NACIQI Conference Tackles Series of Accreditation-Related Issues

June 05, 2018

The most recent meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) covered an array of policy areas focused on accreditation-related issues. Of particular interest were two of the most high-profile items on the agenda – “Reducing Regulatory Burden in Accreditation” and “Oversight of For-Profit Institutions’ Conversions to Non-Profit Entities.”
Reducing regulatory burden in accreditation
In a widely anticipated briefing, Diane Auer Jones, a representative from the U.S. Department of Education, described the Department’s recent effort to conduct a review of current regulations and guidance related to accreditation. Jones, who noted that the review is part of the Department’s overall goal of reducing regulatory burden in higher education, stated that the Department plans to engage in negotiated rulemaking to rewrite accreditation regulations if the agency’s review warrants such action.
During the briefing, Jones identified a number of accreditation reforms the Department may consider, including:
  • Eliminating burdensome or duplicative requirements;
  • Honoring the autonomy and independence of institutions and accreditors;
  • Adhering to the statutory prohibition against bright-line rules;
  • Restoring separation of duties among the program integrity triad;
  • Establishing risk-based review;
  • Simplifying recognition criteria for accreditors;
  • Revising regulations related to substantive change; and
  • Clarifying NACIQI’s role.
The Department’s review of accreditation rules follows the agency’s recent announcement that the rules on state authorization of distance education have been delayed for another two years, as well as an announcement in the Federal Register that a series of other deregulatory efforts are underway for higher education.
Oversight of for-profit institutions’ conversions to nonprofit entities
On the final day of the conference, NACIQI led a conversation on the recent trend of for-profit colleges attempting to convert to nonprofit status.
Tim Powers, NAICU’s Director of Student Aid Policy, testified during the public comment period, arguing that nonprofit higher education is the model that best serves students and the public interest and should therefore be embraced by federal policymakers. According to Powers, for-profit colleges legitimately seeking to convert to nonprofit status should be cautiously welcomed. However, Powers also noted the importance of the federal government remaining vigilant in protecting students and the federal student aid programs from bad actors seeking to convert in order to utilize nonprofit status as a means to skirt regulations or operate as covert for-profit institutions.

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