Federal Panel Recognizes 3 More Accreditors; Rough Ride for ABA

June 10, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity voted to recommend extending the recognition of three accrediting agencies Thursday, although the American Bar Association's accrediting arm proved controversial among the committee's members.

The committee, known as NACIQI, hears reports from Education Department staff members on accrediting agencies and votes on whether to recommend that the department continue to recognize them -- a significant task, since only students at institutions accredited by a federally recognized agency are eligible to receive federal financial aid. Thursday was the second day of NACIQI's three-day semiannual meeting.

As at the meeting Wednesday, when all agencies were granted at least a conditional extension of recognition, the committee made its recommendations despite evidence of problems in some agencies. Among the most concerning was the American Bar Association, which had 17 violations of department requirements -- not a remarkably high number in a season of increased scrutiny, but enough to give accreditors pause. The committee eventually voted 9 to 4 to extend recognition, and the agency is required to show within a year that it has fixed the areas of concern.

The agency extended similar conditional recognition to the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and the Council on Occupational Education before moving on to discuss its recommended revisions to the Higher Education Act when it comes up for amendment in 2013. The discussion focused on the regulatory burden of data collection. Committee members agreed that data collection for institutional self-improvement and for federal eligibility for student financial aid need to be decoupled, but without offering suggestions for how such a system might work.

The discussion continues at today's meeting.

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