NAICU Washington Update

NACIQI Debates Role of Student Outcomes in Accreditation

July 30, 2021

A debate about student outcomes took center stage at this week’s virtual meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).

During review of Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), a for-profit accreditor, no compliance issues were identified by Department of Education staff. However, NACIQI members hesitated to recommend renewal of the accreditor’s federal recognition because of concerns about poor outcomes for students – such as weak debt-to-earnings ratios and graduation rates – at the institutions that ACCSC has approved for accreditation. Ultimately, a divided NACIQI recommended that ACCSC’s recognition be renewed for a period of three years. 

NACIQI members also interrogated other accreditors about problems occurring at the institutions they accredit. For example, members questioned how colleges at risk of closure or under investigation for fraud or other criminal behavior could be considered to be institutions in good standing. 

Other NACIQI members pushed back against these lines of questioning, noting that some of the issues raised fall outside NACIQI’s scope of authority, as well as statutory and regulatory limits on factors to be considered during accreditation review. In general, committee members appeared to struggle with what to do about accreditors that meet the standards for federal recognition but that accredit multiple institutions that demonstrate poor student outcomes or other problems. 

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