Federal Emphasis on Accountability in Higher Education and Regional Accreditation Processes Carla D. Sanderson Commissioner, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, 2000-2005
The Role of Accreditation and Accountability • Since 1965 accreditation has been one of several participants in the federal determination of the distribution of Title IV funds. • Role of accreditation is to determine the quality of an institution’s eligibility by incorporating and applying federal standards, processes, and procedures into their own membership approved standards, processes, and procedures. • In essence, the federal government expects accreditation to be accountable to the public through recognition by the U.S. Department of Education.
How is accreditation accountable to the public through this DOE recognition? • 1. By adopting standards that meet the criteria for federal recognition so as to ensure that it is a reliable authority as to the quality of education or training offered by an institution it accredits.
Mission Curricula Faculty Facilities, equipment Fiscal capacity Administrative capacity Student services Recruiting practices Admissions practices Academic calendars Publications Program length Objectives of the degree Record of student complaints Title IV compliance An accrediting body must have standards that assess student achievement in relation to:
How is accreditation accountable to the public through this DOE recognition? • By adopting processes that guide accreditation in the review of institutions eligible for Title IV funding.
Regular, on-site inspections Procedures for continuous monitoring between reviews Reporting/reviewing substantive change—some require an on-site review Procedures for approval and review of branch campuses and change of ownership Procedures for approving teach-out agreements Procedures for reviewing the quality of the accrediting body’s standards Procedures that comply with due process Procedures and timelines for disclosure to the Secretary of Education, appropriate State licensing agency, and the public of Commission actions To be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, the accrediting body must apply procedures specified by statute and regulations, such as:
The above standards and processes are designed by legislators to hold accrediting commissions accountable for the quality of higher education institutions that receive federal funds. The USDOE also has regulations that an accrediting commission must meet that do not directly affect the institutions it accredits, such as: - quality of evaluators and staff - budget of the accrediting commission - governance of the accrediting commission, i.e. the elected 77-member commission—defining who should be on that commission (academics, public reps, etc)
How has recent action by the House (HR 609 as approved on Friday, March 31 by a margin of 221 to 199) proposed to change the current Higher Education statute? HR 609 as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives proposes some changes to the current law:
Changes to the current law: • Requires accreditors to ensure that institutions offering distance education programs have processes that confirm that the registered student is the same one who completes the required work. • Requires accreditors to confirm that an institution has transfer policies that are publicly disclosed and specifically state whether the institution denies acceptance of transfer credit solely on the accreditation of the institution at which the credit was earned. • Retains current requirements for disclosure of commission actions but requires that accreditors disclose publicly information about their accreditation teams from the prior year, without specific alignments to teams.
Changes to the current law, con’t: • Requires that accreditors consistently apply and enforce standards that consider the stated mission of the institution, including religious missions. • Allows states not recognized before 1991 to serve as federally recognized accreditors. • Requires accreditors to evaluate board governance within the context of the institution’s mission.
Changes to the current law, con’t: • Requires additional disclosure by institutions regarding student achievement. • Requires accreditors to ensure that onsite comprehensive reviews include a review of how an institution discloses to current and prospective students a summary of student outcomes
Now that the House has passed HR 609, there will be pressure on the Senate to approve a version of the HEA reauthorization legislation. After the Senate has passed its version, both bills will go to Conference Committee. Final Questions: • Are the federal standards and processes outlined in the statute and regulations above effective standards for holding accrediting commissions accountable? • If accreditation is, by definition, a process of self-regulation among colleges and universities, is the federal government duplicating those efforts or is it trying to replace accreditation?
Federal Requirement 4.1 When evaluating success with respect to student achievement in relation to the institution’s mission, the institution includes, as appropriate, consideration of course completion, state licensing examinations, and job placement rates.
Federal Requirement 4.2 The institution maintains a curriculum that is directly related and appropriate to the purpose and goals of the institution and the diplomas, certificates or degrees awarded.
Federal Requirement 4.3 The institution makes available to students and the public current academic calendars, grading policies, and refund policies.
Federal Requirement 4.4 The institution demonstrates that program length is appropriate for each of the degrees.
Federal Requirement 4.5 The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.
Federal Requirement 4.6 Recruitment materials and presentations accurately represent the institution’s practices and policies.
Federal Requirement 4.7 The institution publishes the name of its primary accreditor and its address and phone number. (The publication of this information is presented so that it is clear that inquiries to the Commission should relate only to the accreditation status of the institution, and not to general admission information.)
Federal Requirement 4.8 The institution is in compliance with its program responsibilities under Title IV of the 1998 Higher Education Amendments. (In reviewing the institution’s compliance with these program responsibilities, the commission relies documentation forwarded to it .)