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U.S. Department of Education

Staff Report
to the
Senior Department Official
on
Recognition Compliance Issues

RECOMMENDATION PAGE

1.
Agency:   Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (1974/2014)
                  (The dates provided are the date of initial listing as a recognized agency and the date of the agency’s last grant of recognition.)
 
2.
Action Item:   Compliance Report
 
3.
Current Scope of Recognition:   The accreditation and pre-accreditation, within the United States, of Didactic and Coordinated Programs in Dietetics at both the undergraduate and graduate level, postbaccalaureate Dietetic Internships, and Dietetic Technician Programs at the associate degree level and for its accreditation of such programs offered via distance education.
 
4.
Requested Scope of Recognition:   Same as above.
 
5.
Date of Advisory Committee Meeting:   December, 2014
 
6.
Staff Recommendation:   Renew the agency's recognition for a period of three years.
 
7.
Issues or Problems:   None


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 
 

PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE AGENCY

 
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), accredits Didactic and Coordinated Programs in Dietetics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Dietetic Internships at the post-baccalaureate level, and Dietetic Technician Programs at the associate degree level; accreditation of these programs extends to distance education. As of the date of its application, ACEND accredited 53 Coordinated Programs, 226 Didactic Programs, 244 post-baccalaureate Dietetic Internships, and 47 Dietetic Technician Programs.

ACEND is a specialized accreditor; it is the sole accreditor of certain post-baccalaureate Dietetic Internships sponsored by academic medical centers and health care facilities. These internships are eligible to participate in Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) Programs. However, most programs accredited by ACEND are located within an institution that is accredited by another nationally recognized accrediting agency and are eligible to participate in programs offered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The agency currently receives a waiver of the Secretary’s “separate and independent” requirements.

 
 
Recognition History
 
The American Dietetic Association was first listed in 1974 as the accrediting agency for Dietetic Internships and Coordinated Undergraduate Programs in Dietetics. In 1995, the ADA established the Commission on Accreditation/Approval for Dietetics Education (CAADE) as its accrediting unit. In 1999, the CAADE consolidated its accreditation and approval processes and became the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), and in January 2012 the Academy and the Commission changed their names to the current, "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics," and the "Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics" (ACEND).

ACEND was last reviewed for recognition in December 2012. At that time, the senior Department official required the agency to come into compliance within 12 months, and submit a compliance report that demonstrates the agency's compliance with the issues identified in the staff analysis. The agency's compliance report is the subject of this analysis.


PART II: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

 
§602.14 Purpose and organization
(d) For purposes of paragraph (a)(3) of this section, the Secretary may waive the "separate and independent" requirements in paragraph (b) of this section if the agency demonstrates that--
(1) The Secretary listed the agency as a nationally recognized agency on or before October 1, 1991 and has recognized it continuously since that date;

(2) The related, associated, or affiliated trade association or membership organization plays no role in making or ratifying either the accrediting or policy decisions of the agency;

(3) The agency has sufficient budgetary and administrative autonomy to carry out its accrediting functions independently; and

(4) The agency provides to the related, associated, or affiliated trade association or membership organization only information it makes available to the public.

(e) An agency seeking a waiver of the "separate and independent" requirements under paragraph (d) of this section must apply for the waiver each time the agency seeks recognition or continued recognition.

(NOTE: An agency must respond to this section only if it is requesting a waiver of the "separate and independent” requirement.)

 
In the December 2012 final staff report, the agency was required to amend its by-laws to ensure compliance under subsection (2) above. Previously, the related association's by-laws stated that the agency's by-laws must be approved by the Academy's House of Delegates, thereby requiring ratification by the related association (Academy) of the agency's governing policies in violation of subsection (2) above. The agency has now provided final revisions of the by-laws which remove such a requirement, thereby addressing the finding of non-compliance in the previous staff report.

However, shortly after issuance of the final staff report, members of the agency filed a complaint against itself alleging non-compliance under this section (see ACEND complaint 12.9.13 attached). Complainants alleged interference by the Academy with the policy decisions of the agency, and insufficient budgetary and administrative autonomy to carry out its accrediting functions independently. The Academy provided an unsolicited response to the complaint to the Department shortly thereafter (see Academy Response 01-10-2014 attached).

The Department issued a letter to the agency with a copy to the complainants and the Academy, finding that the agency's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Academy needed further expansion to incorporate the concerns cited by the complainants in order to be in compliance with subsections (2) and (3) under this section.

In the letter, the Department required that the agency and the Academy work together to come to mutually-agreeable terms that are compliant under separate and independent waiver requirements, and serve the best interests of students. Therefore, while the agency has remedied the previous finding of non-compliance by amending the Academy's by-laws, it was found out of compliance soon thereafter under a separate finding which requires the agency to expand the terms of its MOU with the Academy. The agency is required to come into compliance under such finding by January 27, 2015.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
The agency has since significantly expanded their MOU with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to address noncompliance issues cited in the January 24, 2014 letter from the Accreditation staff, which found the agency must clarify certain operational issues in its MOU to ensure that the Academy plays no role in making or ratifying the accrediting or policy decisions of the agency, and that the agency has sufficient budgetary and administrative autonomy to carry out its accrediting functions independently.

The agency has since clearly stipulated guiding principles under a separate and independent waiver in its MOU and has fleshed out how the agency will operate in relationship to the Academy - and in light of shared resources - with respect to the Academy's policy manual. Specifically, the agency has outlined how the agency will continue to adhere to the Academy's policies while remaining in compliance under this section. Sections of the Academy's policy manual pertaining to financial planning, investment, and services, have been fleshed out in the MOU to clarify respective staff roles and how such policies apply to the agency to ensure it retains sufficient autonomy. The revised MOU stipulates that the MOU agreement controls in the event of any conflict between the terms of the MOU and any Academy policy or procedures.

The agency has also clearly stipulated personnel roles, reporting lines, the selection process for the Executive Director, and how the agency and the Academy will ensure sufficient autonomy for the Executive Director who serves as both agency staff and as an employee of the Academy.

Finally, the agency attests that it has worked together with the Academy in formulating the attached MOU, and has arrived at mutually-agreeable terms. The agency further attests that the MOU was approved unanimously by ACEND's Board of Directors, and by both ACEND and Academy leadership. No other complaints have been received by the Department regarding the agency and the Academy's efforts in expanding its MOU.

 

§602.15 Administrative and fiscal responsibilities
(3) Academic and administrative personnel on its evaluation, policy, and decision-making bodies, if the agency accredits institutions;

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its policies which ensure academic representation on its Board, site evaluation teams, and appeal panel.
 

(4) Educators and practitioners on its evaluation, policy, and decision-making bodies, if the agency accredits programs or single-purpose institutions that prepare students for a specific profession;

 
The agency has provided final revisions of its policy which ensures representation of educators and practitioners on its Board and appeal panel.
 

(5) Representatives of the public on all decision-making bodies; and

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its policy which ensures a representation of a public member on its appeal panel, and a public member vetting process. The agency also provided evidence that it adheres to its process for vetting representatives of the public.
 

§602.16 Accreditation and preaccreditation standards
(a)(1)(ix) Record of student complaints received by, or available to, the agency.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its guidance on its student complaints standard which was revised in 2012. The guidance ensures that site visitors review an institution's record of student complaints in accord with the requirements under this section. The agency has also provided a sample site visit report which evidences its application of the record of student complaints standard.
 

(a)(1)(vi) Student support services.
 
The agency has provided final revisions to its student support services standard which more comprehensively assesses the adequacy of the quality of services to students and whether such services are sufficient to meet the needs of the program and students. The agency has also provided a sample site visit report that evidences its application of the revised standard.
 


(b) If the agency only accredits programs and does not serve as an institutional accrediting agency for any of those programs, its accreditation standards must address the areas in paragraph (a)(1) of this section in terms of the type and level of the program rather than in terms of the institution.


(c) If the agency has or seeks to include within its scope of recognition the evaluation of the quality of institutions or programs offering distance education or correspondence education, the agency's standards must effectively address the quality of an institution's distance education or correspondence education in the areas identified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. The agency is not required to have separate standards, procedures, or policies for the evaluation of distance education or correspondence education;


 
The agency has revised its definition of distance education to cohere with the Secretary's definition of distance education and has indicated that it is not interested in expanding its scope to include correspondence education.
 

§602.17 Application of standards in reaching an accrediting decision.
The agency must have effective mechanisms for evaluating an institution's or program's compliance with the agency's standards before reaching a decision to accredit or preaccredit the institution or program. The agency meets this requirement if the agency demonstrates that it--
(g) Requires institutions that offer distance education or correspondence education to have processes in place through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the academic credit. The agency meets this requirement if it--

(1) Requires institutions to verify the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as--

(i) A secure login and pass code;

(ii) Proctored examinations; and

(iii) New or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identity; and
(2) Makes clear in writing that institutions must use processes that protect student privacy and notify students of any projected additional student charges associated with the verification of student identity at the time of registration or enrollment.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its policy for student verification in accord with the requirements under this section.
 

§602.19 Monitoring and reevaluation of accredited institutions and programs.

(b) The agency must demonstrate it has, and effectively applies, a set of monitoring and evaluation approaches that enables the agency to identify problems with an institution's or program's continued compliance with agency standards and that takes into account institutional or program strengths and stability. These approaches must include periodic reports, and collection and analysis of key data and indicators, identified by the agency, including, but not limited to, fiscal information and measures of student achievement, consistent with the provisions of §602.16(f). This provision does not require institutions or programs to provide annual reports on each specific accreditation criterion.


 
The agency has since revised its approach to monitoring to include collection and analysis of fiscal information in accord with the requirements under this section. The agency now collects and reviews financial and budgetary information to monitor the sufficiency of a program's resources.
 


(c) Each agency must monitor overall growth of the institutions or programs it accredits and, at least annually, collect headcount enrollment data from those institutions or programs.


 
The agency has implemented policies to monitor overall growth of institutions and programs by requiring institutions and programs to request an increase in enrollment beyond an established maximum enrollment. The agency has provided evidence of its implementation of such policy by way of a request for an approval for an enrollment increase.
 

§602.20 Enforcement of standards
(b) If the institution or program does not bring itself into compliance within the specified period, the agency must take immediate adverse action unless the agency, for good cause, extends the period for achieving compliance.

 
The agency has since revised its policy for granting good cause extensions to clarify when such extensions may be warranted. The agency has also stated in its narrative that in the course of four meetings and 236 decisions, the agency only granted four extensions for good cause, demonstrating that it grants such extensions on an infrequent basis.
 

§602.22 Substantive change.
(2)The agency's definition of substantive change includes at least the following types of change:

(i) Any change in the established mission or objectives of the institution.

(ii) Any change in the legal status, form of control, or ownership of the institution.

(iii) The addition of courses or programs that represent a significant departure from the existing offerings of educational programs, or method of delivery, from those that were offered when the agency last evaluated the institution.

(iv) The addition of programs of study at a degree or credential level different from that which is included in the institution's current accreditation or preaccreditation.

(v) A change from clock hours to credit hours.

(vi) A substantial increase in the number of clock or credit hours awarded for successful completion of a program.

(vii) If the agency's accreditation of an institution enables the institution to seek eligibility to participate in title IV, HEA programs, the entering into a contract under which an institution or organization not certified to participate in the title IV, HEA programs offers more than 25 percent of one or more of the accredited institution's educational programs.

 
The agency has provided evidence of its revised policy to include subsection (vii) in accord with the requirements under this section.
 

(3) The agency's substantive change policy must define when the changes made or proposed by an institution are or would be sufficiently extensive to require the agency to conduct a new comprehensive evaluation of that institution.

 
The agency has outlined conditions under which a new comprehensive evaluation may be required in its policies. Such conditions include mergers and reorganizations of programs. The agency has also provided evidence of its application of such policy by way of notification to a program regarding a forthcoming comprehensive evaluation resulting from a reorganization.
 


(b) The agency may determine the procedures it uses to grant prior approval of the substantive change. However, these procedures must specify an effective date, which is not retroactive, on which the change is included in the program's or institution's accreditation. An agency may designate the date of a change in ownership as the effective date of its approval of that substantive change if the accreditation decision is made within 30 days of the change in ownership. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, these procedures may, but need not, require a visit by the agency.


 
The agency has provided a revised policy to conform with its practice for approving substantive changes in accord with the requirements of this section.
 

§602.23 Operating procedures all agencies must have.
(a) The agency must maintain and make available to the public written materials describing--

(1) Each type of accreditation and preaccreditation it grants;

(2) The procedures that institutions or programs must follow in applying for accreditation or preaccreditation;

(3) The standards and procedures it uses to determine whether to grant, reaffirm, reinstate, restrict, deny, revoke, terminate, or take any other action related to each type of accreditation and preaccreditation that the agency grants;

(4) The institutions and programs that the agency currently accredits or preaccredits and, for each institution and program, the year the agency will next review or reconsider it for accreditation or preaccreditation; and

(5) The names, academic and professional qualifications, and relevant employment and organizational affiliations of--
(i) The members of the agency's policy and decision-making bodies; and

(ii) The agency's principal administrative staff.

 
The agency now makes information regarding its appeal panel pool public in accord with the requirements under this section.
 

(c) The accrediting agency must--
(1) Review in a timely, fair, and equitable manner any complaint it receives against an accredited institution or program that is related to the agency's stan­dards or procedures.The agency may not complete its review and make a decision regarding a complaint unless, in accordance with published procedures, it ensures that the institution or program has sufficient opportunity to provide a response to the complaint;

(2) Take follow-up action, as necessary, including enforcement action, if necessary, based on the results of its review; and

(3) Review in a timely, fair, and equitable manner, and apply unbiased judgment to, any complaints against itself and take follow-up action, as appropriate, based on the results of its review.

 
The agency has since revised its policy to exclude language regarding holding a complaint in abeyance if a lawsuit has been filed.
 

§602.24 Additional procedures certain institutional accreditors must have.
(c) Teach-out plans and agreements.
(1) The agency must require an institution it accredits or preaccredits to submit a teach-out plan to the agency for approval upon the occurrence of any of the following events:

(i) The Secretary notifies the agency that the Secretary has initiated an emergency action against an institution, in accordance with section 487(c)(1)(G) of the HEA, or an action to limit, suspend, or terminate an institution participating in any title IV, HEA program, in accordance with section 487(c)(1)(F) of the HEA, and that a teach-out plan is required.

(ii) The agency acts to withdraw, terminate, or suspend the accreditation or preaccreditation of the institution.

(iii) The institution notifies the agency that it intends to cease operations entirely or close a location that provides one hundred percent of at least one program.

(iv) A State licensing or authorizing agency notifies the agency that an institution's license or legal authorization to provide an educational program has been or will be revoked.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its teach-out policy to include subsection (i) above as required in the previous staff analysis.
 

(2) The agency must evaluate the teach-out plan to ensure it provides for the equitable treatment of students under criteria established by the agency, specifies additional charges, if any, and provides for notification to the students of any additional charges.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its teach-out policy to include provisions regarding the equitable treatment of students as required in the previous staff analysis.
 

(3) If the agency approves a teach-out plan that includes a program that is accredited by another recognized accrediting agency, it must notify that accrediting agency of its approval.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its teach-out policy to include subsection (3) above as required in the previous staff analysis.
 

(4) The agency may require an institution it accredits or preaccredits to enter into a teach-out agreement as part of its teach-out plan.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its teach-out policy to include subsection (4) above as required in the previous staff analysis.
 


(d) Closed Institution.


If an institution the agency accredits or preaccredits closes without a teach-out plan or agreement, the agency must work with the Department and the appropriate State agency, to the extent feasible, to assist students in finding reasonable opportunities to complete their education without additional charges.


 
The agency has provided final revisions to its teach-out policy to include section (d) above as required in the previous staff analysis.
 

§602.25 Due process
(h)(1) The agency must provide for a process, in accordance with written procedures, through which an institution or program may, before the agency reaches a final adverse action decision, seek review of new financial information if all of the following conditions are met:
(i) The financial information was unavailable to the institution or program until after the decision subject to appeal was made.

(ii) The financial information is significant and bears materially on the financial deficiencies identified by the agency.

(iii) The only remaining deficiency cited by the agency in support of a final adverse action decision is the institution's or program's failure to meet an agency standard pertaining to finances.
(h)(2) An institution or program may seek the review of new financial information described in paragraph (h)(1) of this section only once and any determination by the agency made with respect to that review does not provide a basis for an appeal.

 
The agency has provided final revisions to appeal policy to include a process for review of new financial information (section (h) above) as required in the previous staff analysis.
 

§602.26 Notification of accrediting decisions
(d) For any decision listed in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, makes available to the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, and the public, no later than 60 days after the decision, a brief statement summarizing the reasons for the agency's decision and the official comments that the affected institu­tion or program may wish to make with regard to that decision, or evidence that the affected institution has been offered the opportunity to provide official comment; and

 
The agency has provided final revisions to its policy regarding the provision of a brief summary within 60 days and the official comments that the affected program may wish to make with regard to that decision, or evidence that the affected program has been offered the opportunity to provide official comment, as required in the previous staff analysis. The agency has also provided evidence of its application of the policy in accord with the final staff analysis.
 
 

PART III: THIRD PARTY COMMENTS

 
The Department did not receive any written third-party comments regarding this agency.