Number 47, March 13, 2015


On February 24, 2015, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) sent letters to members of the U.S. House of Representatives who introduced H.R. 970, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act. The bill was introduced on February 13, 2015 by John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training; Alcee Hastings (D-FL); and Matt Salmon (R-AZ).

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced S. 559, a companion bill to H.R. 970, on February 25, 2015. The Senate bill currently has 19 cosponsors, including Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. CHEA sent a letter on March 4, 2015 supporting the legislation to Senator Burr and the bill’s cosponsors.

Both bills include provisions to repeal regulations related to the definition of credit hour, state authorization and gainful employment, as well as preventing further action by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to establish a college ratings system. In its letter, CHEA noted its longstanding concern regarding credit hour and state authorization regulations, including support for earlier bills to repeal these regulations. CHEA also stated that USDE’s college ratings system proposal has caused confusion and concern for the higher education community and asked, "Do we want to move toward a quality assurance model where government, not academics and accreditors, defines and judges quality?"


On February 24, 2015, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on regulations governing higher education. The hearing addressed the recent report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education, established in November 2013 by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) to provide advice to Congress about “costly, duplicative, confusing and excessive government regulations with specific suggestions for addressing the problem.” CHEA worked with the Task Force to address accreditation-related regulations.

In his opening statement, HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander said that he is seeking to develop a bipartisan process to include many of the Task Force recommendations in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Testifying at the hearing were Task Force chairs William Kirwan, former CHEA board member and Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and Nicholas Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. The Task Force identified specific regulations of major concern to higher education, including problematic financial responsibility standards, overreach with regard to authorization of distance education programs and what was termed “counterproductive micromanagement” of the accreditation process. The Task Force also recommended changes to the process of creating regulations and called for USDE to routinely review regulations.


On January 2, 2015, USDE’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), the advisory body that provides recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting organizations, issued Recommendations to inform accreditation and recognition policy and practice, a draft report on accreditation policy.

The report's recommendations include:

  • Asking accrediting organizations to develop common definitions of accreditation action terminology, processes and timelines
  • Making accreditation reports about institutions available to the public, increasing transparency
  • Permitting different gradations of approval of accrediting organizations
  • Granting accrediting organizations greater authority to develop standards tailored to institutional mission
  • Creating different tiers of accreditation and allowing accreditors to use different processes to review and grant accreditation to different types of institutions
  • Affording institutions the widest possible array of choice of accreditor for access to Title IV funds
  • Allowing for alternative accrediting organizations
  • Offering a range of accreditation statuses to be established to provide access to Title IV funds

The report also recommends that NACIQI review policy issues outside of recognition of accrediting organizations, such as gainful employment, and make policy recommendations in these areas.

NACIQI solicited comments on the draft report and will hold an online meeting open to the public on the report’s policy recommendations on March 23, 2015.

CHEA Hosts state department-sponsored leadership institute on quality assurance and accreditation

CHEA hosted a U.S. Department of State EducationUSA Leadership Institute on quality assurance and accreditation from February 13 to February 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Leadership Institute brought together educators and government officials from countries around the world to explore opportunities for capacity building and international collaboration in the field of quality assurance and accreditation, providing participants with insight into both U.S. and international accreditation and quality assurance frameworks.

The Leadership Institute program addressed a variety of issues, including the history and origin of U.S. accreditation, an in-depth examination of accreditation policy and practice, exploration of the effectiveness of accreditation, the role of accreditation in society, accreditation and internationalization and key challenges for quality assurance and accreditation now and in the future. Sessions provided information on how to use CHEA and USDE databases to obtain reliable information on accredited U.S. higher education institutions and programs; insights from representatives of various U.S. accrediting organizations on their activities and operations; and a discussion of international trends in quality assurance.


On February 25, 2015, CHEA held a Capitol Hill briefing on accreditation attended by key staff members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Led by CHEA President Judith Eaton, the briefing provided information to committee staff on a range of topics related to accreditation and recognition.

The briefing addressed the purpose, role and operation of accreditation, as well as CHEA and USDE recognition of accrediting organizations. Information was provided on the structure of accreditation and the types of accreditation, including regional, national and programmatic accreditation. The use of peer review and attention to institutional mission by accreditation was discussed, underscoring the fact that accreditation is carried out by higher education faculty and administration, not government. CHEA also provided information on how accreditation works to benefit students, employers, institutions and society. Accreditation’s relationship with the federal government and the status of government regulation were outlined, along with CHEA’s view of what government wants from accreditation and what accreditation needs from government.

CHEA has conducted similar briefings for members of the Senate HELP Committee and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce at the beginning of the past several Congresses.


The Federal Update informs CHEA members and interested parties on federal policy developments related to self-regulation and peer review. Please direct any inquiries or comments to Jan Friis, CHEA Vice President for Government Affairs, at or at (202) 955-6126.

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