Education Department Drafts Standards for Accreditors

April 6, 2016

The Obama administration is proposing new standards that govern how and when college accreditors have to alert the U.S. Department of Education about troubled institutions under the accreditors’ purview.

The department is soliciting public comments on a letter it plans to send to accreditors that will outline the circumstances under which they must notify federal officials of actions they take against a college.

Federally recognized college accrediting agencies are already required to provide certain information to the Education Department. As part of the administration’s executive actions on accreditation, the Education Department is now looking to standardize how that process works.

The letter outlines, for instance, uniform definitions for the various terms that accreditors use to describe similar types problems at a college (such as “denial” of accreditation or “suspension” of accreditation). Under the new policy, accreditors would also have to triage information they send to the department by level of severity to help federal regulators more quickly sort out serious problems from more routine changes in a college’s accreditation status.

As the department collects more robust information from accreditors about troubled institutions, it also plans to make such information publicly available, according to the letter. The department will accept public comments until June 6.

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