Here in Washington, we are in the dead heat of summer and the ACCET staff is in high gear. We have all just gotten off the road after completing our team visits in preparation for the August 2016 Commission meeting, for which we are busily preparing. A reminder to all that there is still time to nominate a colleague (or yourself) for the Institutional Commission Member opening (see above) and we encourage you to do so.
By now, most of you are aware that the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) did not recommend continued recognition for our fellow national institutional accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). This recommendation has been forwarded to a senior U.S. Department of Education (US ED) official for a decision that can then be appealed to the Secretary of Education. ACICS could also elect to bring suit in U.S. Federal Court once internal appeals at US ED are exhausted. General consensus, however, is that the long term outlook for ACICS is bleak. Once all appeals and any court action are final, ACICS members will have 18 months to find a new accreditor without losing Title IV eligibility but numerous ACICS institutions are already exploring alternatives. This pending decision impacts more than 250 ACICS accredited main campuses with 800 locations affecting as many as 800,000 students. The NACIQI hearing for ACICS lasted ten hours and involved approximately twenty third-party speakers. The overall atmosphere was tense and adversarial. I left the hearing troubled and concerned about the future of higher education accreditation.
The task ahead facing the accreditation community is massive. Although ACCET’s scope limiting our accreditation to institutions offering diplomas/certificates and vocational associate degrees results in modest overlap with ACICS institutions, we are still receiving a significant number of inquiries. Well prior to this ACICS development, the ACCET Commission voted to begin the process with US ED and NACIQI to expand our accreditation scope to include institutions offering certain bachelor’s degrees. This decision was in response to members who are planning in the future to offer bachelor’s degrees and did not want to leave ACCET if they decided to do so. Whether the scope expansion process will culminate early enough to assist additional ACICS members seeking a new home remains to be seen.
The ACCET Commission and staff, however, want to stress three points as we move ahead. First, any new potential ACCET members seeking to switch from other accrediting agencies will be subject to the same rigorous review and scrutiny that all ACCET initial applicants must meet. Next, our standards, policies and procedures will not be compromised as we move forward. Finally, our primary commitment will be to our current membership with no interruption of quality and responsive service.
I will continue to update you on these developments via this blog and at our annual conference in New Mexico this October 31 through November 2, 2016 – an event you will not want to miss! Best wishes to all for a productive summer and thank you for your continued support.