Publication Date: June 9, 2009
Subject: Accrediting Agencies' Compliance with the Secretary's Criteria for Recognition as modified by the HEOA
We are writing to elicit information from currently recognized accrediting agencies that will allow the Accreditation and State Liaison (ASL) staff to assess accrediting agencies’ compliance with the Secretary’s Criteria for Recognition in light of new provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) (Public Law 110-315). In addition, information is provided to accrediting agencies on how the ASL staff will proceed with the review of accrediting agency petitions for recognition, reports, and other submissions prior to the publication of new regulations.
The HEOA was enacted on August 14, 2008, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (the HEA). The HEOA makes a number of changes to Title IV, Part H – Program Integrity, subpart 2 - Accrediting Agency Recognition. These changes were effective August 14, 2008, and accrediting agencies are responsible for taking immediate steps to comply with the new provisions.
The Department is developing regulations reflecting the changes made by the HEOA and will address certain other issues regarding recognition through the negotiated rulemaking process now underway. This process will result in the publication of final regulations by November 1, 2009. Under the HEA, these regulations will be effective July 1, 2010. Until that time, the Department will not grant renewals of recognition nor initial recognition. However, the Department will go forward with its ASL staff review process.
Review of New Requirements
All currently-recognized agencies must make a good faith showing of their implementation of the HEOA provisions. Agencies are required to submit, within 45 days of the date of this letter, information demonstrating that they are compliant with the new statutory requirements. Agencies are requested to provide their responses to the new provisions via the Department’s On-Line Secretarial Recognition Submission Process system. Upon accessing the system, agencies will be directed to the screen pages provided for responding to the new HEOA requirements. Submission of this information will provide the Department with assurance that agencies are implementing the HEOA requirements that were effective as of August 14, 2008.
Enclosed is a copy of Section 496 of the HEA with the changes made by the HEOA indicated by the italicized and struck-through text. The new provisions in the HEOA, with the exception of HEA Section 496(a)(5)(A) related to student achievement (20 U.S.C. § 1099b(a)(5)(A) [the associated regulation is at 34 CFR 602.16(a)(1)], supplement rather than supplant current regulations. Also included are two provisions (definitions) from Title I that affect accrediting agencies.
Recognition Review Process
The Accrediting Agency Evaluation Unit (AAEU) of ASL is continuing the review process of agency petitions, reports and other submissions as scheduled. Agencies that were scheduled for a December 2008 or a June 2009 review before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) submitted their petitions and reports as requested or were granted an extension. Agencies currently scheduled for a December 2009 or June 2010 review by the NACIQI must submit their petitions and reports no later than June 29, 2009, and January 4, 2010, respectively.
Staff will continue to conduct on-site observations and will be communicating with agencies under review throughout this period to provide guidance and assistance to correct any issues identified during the review process and to solicit information regarding changes agencies are developing and implementing subsequent to the submission of their petitions and reports. Subject to any procedural changes incorporated into the new regulations, once the NACIQI appointments are made, final regulations are published, and any additional agency submissions needed to demonstrate compliance with the new regulations are received and analyzed by ASL staff, a NACIQI meeting date for agency reviews will be established, and draft staff reports will be sent to agencies for their review and response.
Thank you for your kind attention to these matters. If you have any questions, please contact Accreditation and State Liaison staff at (202) 219-7011.
Daniel T. Madzelan
Delegated the Authority to Perform the Functions and Duties of
the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education