By law, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) relies in part on accrediting agencies to determine eligibility for U.S. government assistance under certain legislation. USDE oversees a recognition program by which it identifies reliable authorities on the quality of educational organizations and programs. The Commission is among these governmentally recognized authorities and seeks renewal of USDE recognition at least every five years.
To be recognized by USDE, the Commission must agree to do certain things required by law and the USDE. These include holding to a schedule of reporting to the USDE and to state agencies, as well as including a review of the record of the educational organization’s relationship with USDE.
The Commission and the U.S. Department of Education
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a private nonprofit organization that coordinates accreditation activities in the United States. CHEA represents degree-granting colleges and universities as well as institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. According to its mission statement, CHEA “will serve students and their families, colleges and universities, sponsoring bodies, governments, and employers by promoting academic quality through formal recognition of higher education accrediting bodies and will coordinate and work to advance self-regulation through accreditation.”
The Higher Learning Commission is a CHEA-recognized accrediting body. The Commission’s CHEA recognition was reaffirmed in 2002.
Commission Communication with Other Agencies
The Commission shares information with other accrediting agencies, with state departments of education, and with the USDE. Following each meeting of a Commission decision-making body, the Commission files a report of all actions taken with these agencies. In early fall, the Commission furnishes state agencies with the list of organizations scheduled for evaluation in that academic year. The Commission also maintains communications and discussions with officers of state coordinating and governing boards to clarify the functions and concerns of the Commission with respect to its affiliated organizations affected by these types of boards.
Although the Commission tries to respond cooperatively to requests for information from other agencies, it is primarily the educational organization’s responsibility to maintain effective communication with them and to provide them with appropriate information concerning its relationship with the Commission.
Interregional Exchange of Organizational Information
To assure that each regional accrediting commissions are adequately apprised of the instructional activities of Commission-affiliated organizations in its region, the Commission annually reports to the affected commission the name of each organization offering more than 50 percent of a degree program at a specific site, its location(s), its level of degree offerings, and the number of students enrolled. The Commission also notifies the relevant commission when one of its organizations intends to establish a new instructional site in its region.
Verification Visits for State Agencies
Occasionally, a state agency asks the Commission to verify information it received from an affiliated organization. The affiliated organization may ask the Commission to provide an evaluation team to obtain such verification. The team typically produces a written report for the purposes of information and advice. That report is shared with the organization and the state agency or other governmental entity, but no formal Commission review or action typically is taken.