The negotiated rulemaking committee charged with considering rules affecting accreditation and innovation concluded its second session last week, during which the panel of negotiators focused heavily on revisions the US Department of Education has made to some of its most controversial accreditation proposals. For the most part, these revisions, discussed below, represent a significant retreat from ED’s earlier positions, with the federal negotiators’ comments throughout the second session suggesting that the department may be willing to concede even more ground in the hope of reaching consensus.
With little progress having been made on accreditation and distance education proposals central to the rulemaking, it has become evident that the negotiators can only agree that time is running out. ED was hesitant to add an additional session, and suggested that extending the rulemaking would reduce the time the department would have to draft its own proposed rule, should the committee not reach consensus. However, ED ultimately agreed to schedule a fourth and presumably final session of the Accreditation and Innovation Committee for the first week of April. The federal negotiator commented that ED intends to put new rules into effect on July 1, 2020, which would require publishing its final rule by November 1.
ED had originally proposed to narrowly define the geographic scope of regional accreditors as not less than three nor more than 10 contiguous states, including states where additional locations and branches are located, which would have required a dramatic realignment of regions or an abandonment of regional accreditation in favor of more national accreditors. In response to strong pushback, ED presented the negotiators with two scaled-back proposals, both of which would still require agencies to include within their scope each state where an accredited institution, branch campus or additional location of an accredited institution is located. The non-federal negotiators responded with a third option, which would not specify the number of states included in a region and, instead, would define a region as the states within which an agency provides institutional accreditation. Importantly, under the non-federal negotiators’ proposal, an agency would not be forced to extend its scope to states in which additional locations or branch campuses are located. ED appears ready to abandon its more… (continue reading)