New Rules on Accreditation and State Authorization


The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released the final version of federal regulations covering accreditation and the state authorization of online education providers.

The 519-page rule will take effect in July 2020. It hews closely to the recommendations a group of 15 department-chosen federal negotiators agreed to in April. The process, while often contentious, led to the first consensus in a negotiated rule-making session on federal education policy in nearly a decade.

The department said it would soon publish proposed rules on related consensus agreements on issues related to distance education and innovation, federal grants for teachers, and religious colleges’ eligibility for federal financial aid.

Consumer groups, think tanks and congressional Democrats criticized the final rules for accreditors. The regulations roll back key protections for students and taxpayers, they said, and will result in the “unraveling of federal oversight of college quality,” according to the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

The regulations are part of the broader “rethink higher education” agenda led by Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education.

DeVos said the Trump administration’s final rules for accreditors are designed to “rightsize bureaucracy” and will help students pursue valuable postsecondary credentials and transfer credits between institutions.

“These final regulations demonstrate our commitment to working with student, state, employer and institutional representatives to develop sound policies that serve the best interests of students,” DeVos said in a written statement. “These reforms are necessary to bring higher education into the current century, to be more responsive to the needs of students, and to reduce the skyrocketing cost of higher education.”

The department said requirements for accreditors, which monitor colleges and serve as the gatekeepers to federal financial aid, were revised so the agencies will “be less prescriptive and provide greater autonomy and flexibility to facilitate agility and responsiveness and promote innovation.”

Representative Bobby Scott had a different take.

“Students and parents view college accreditation as a seal of approval from the federal government,” Scott, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the House education committee, said in a written statement. “By rolling back standards for accreditors, the department is undermining a key driver of institutional accountability, further exposing students and taxpayers to fraud and abuse at the hands of low-quality schools.”

Authorizing Online Programs

The panel of 15 negotiators included members from higher education industry groups… (continue reading)