Editor’s Note: On November 1, the Department of Education (ED) released its final rules regarding accreditation, state authorization of distance education, and student assistance general provisions. The rules become effective July 1, 2020. This article is the third in a series of three analyzing the rules, and will focus on accreditation.
These rules are the culmination of the work of 2018-19 negotiated rulemaking sessions, which also included discussions on faith-based entities, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program, and distance learning — none of which have seen proposed rules published for public comment. As a reminder, negotiators reached consensus during those rulemaking sessions, which meant that ED was obligated to publish the consensus regulatory language in its proposed regulations, which were released in June. Changes from the proposed rules reflect ED’s incorporation of public comments. See all of NASFAA’s coverage of the rulemaking process.
After reviewing public comment, ED did not make any substantive changes to the proposed rules in the area of accreditation, opting only to make technical corrections and add clarifying language.
The final rules add a new definition to 34 CFR 602.3 for the term “monitoring report,” which is now a new tool that addresses oversight for accreditors that have been found to be in “substantial compliance” (for which a new definition is also included) with recognition criteria. ED’s goal for adding this intermediate step between full compliance and a compliance report is to allow agencies to implement updated policies to align with compliant practices when areas of noncompliance are minor or technical in nature. The monitoring report, addressed fully in 34 CFR 602.33, would be an option in addition to, not in place of, the existing compliance report. However, because the monitoring report would address minor compliance issues, it would not require review by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) unless ED staff determined such a review to be necessary.