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U.S. Department of Education

Staff Report
to the
Senior Department Official
on
Recognition Compliance Issues

RECOMMENDATION PAGE

1.
Agency:   New York State Board Of Regents (1952/2014)
                  (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 of those degree-granting institutions of higher education in New York that designate the agency as their sole or primary nationally recognized accrediting agency for purposes of establishing eligibility to participate in HEA programs including accreditation of programs offered via distance education within these institutions.
 
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 three years.
 
7.
Issues or Problems:  



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 
 

PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE AGENCY

 
The New York State Board of Regents (NYBR) has been engaged in the evaluation of quality in higher education since 1787. It is the State approval agency that authorizes the establishment of all educational institutions in the State. That function also includes the responsibility to register all of the postsecondary programs offered in New York institutions offering degrees and certificates. As the only State agency recognized by the Secretary for its institutional accrediting activities, the agency restructured its institutional accrediting activities in 2002 to clarify its role and responsibilities as an institutional accrediting agency. The institutional accreditation activities now fall under the auspices of both the NYBR and the Commissioner of Education (Board of Regents). The Board of Regents accredits degree-granting institutions that have designated it as their sole or primary accrediting agency for the purpose of establishing eligibility to participate in the Title IV, HEA programs In this capacity, the Board of Regents currently accredits 24 institutions, all of which are located in the State of New York.

The New York State Education Department (SED), the administrative arm of the NYBRE, carries out the accreditation activities of the Board of Regents. The SED performs its duties and responsibilities under the direction of the Commissioner of Education. Within the SED, the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education develops and implements the institutional accrediting activities.
 
 
Recognition History
 
The New York Board of Regents appeared on the initial list of recognized accrediting agencies in 1952, and has received continuous recognition since that time. In 2008, the agency notified the Secretary of the expansion of its scope to include distance education. The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) last reviewed the agency’s petition for renewal of recognition at the Fall 2012 meeting. That meeting was the first opportunity for the agency to appear before NACIQI for a review of its distance education expansion of scope. Based on the information and documentation provided, Department staff recommended removing distance education from the agency's scope, however the NACIQI did not make such recommendation with regard to the scope of recognition.

Both Department staff and the NACIQI recommended to the senior Department official to continue the agency's recognition and require it to come into compliance within 12 months, and submit a compliance report that demonstrates the agency's compliance with the issues cited in the staff report. The senior Department official, Acting Assistant Secretary David Bergeron,
concurred with the recommendations, and retained distance education within the recognized scope to allow the agency to opportunity to provide more information and documentation within the compliance report. This compliance report is in response to that requirement.


PART II: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

 
§602.15 Administrative and fiscal responsibilities

The agency must have the administrative and fiscal capability to carry out its accreditation activities in light of its requested scope of recognition. The agency meets this requirement if the agency demonstrates that--

(a) The agency has--

(1) Adequate administrative staff and financial resources to carry out its accrediting responsibilities;

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not provide sufficient documentation to demonstrate that all accreditation functions are addressed by the agency's staff.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to demonstrate that it has adequate administrative staff to carry out its accrediting responsibilities.
 

(2) Competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by education and experience in their own right and trained by the agency on their responsibilities, as appropriate for their roles, regarding the agency's standards, policies, and procedures, to conduct its on-site evaluations, apply or establish its policies, and make its accrediting and preaccrediting decisions, including, if applicable to the agency's scope, their responsibilities regarding distance education and correspondence education;

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had and had applied appeals panel policies that met the requirements of this section. In addition, the agency did not provide sufficient documentation of the qualifications and experience of its Board of Regents members, the Commissioner, and its Regents Advisory Council members.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to address the previous concerns. Specifically, the agency provided the appeals panel policies and procedures, effective July 3, 2013, which meet the requirements of this section. The agency also provided documentation of the training provided on February 28, 2014 to appeals panel members, and indicated that no appeals have occurred.

In addition, the agency provided the biographies of the Commissioner, the Board of Regents members, and its Regents Advisory Council members to document their qualifications and experience for their roles.
 

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

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had appeals panel policies that met the requirements of this section.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided the appeals panel policies and procedures, effective July 3, 2013, which meet the requirements of this section. The agency also provided the biographies of the appeals panel members to document their qualifications and experience for their role.
 

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

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had and had applied appeals panel policies that met the requirements of this section. In addition, the agency did not provide sufficient documentation of any public representation on its Board of Regents and its Regents Advisory Council, nor that it had a policy that met the Secretary's definition of a public representative.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to address the previous concerns. Specifically, the agency provided the appeals panel policies and procedures, effective July 3, 2013, which meet the requirements of this section to include a public representative. The agency also provided the name and biography of the public member on the appeals panel.

In addition, the agency provided documentation of the inclusion of a definition of a public representative that meets the requirements of this section for both its Board of Regents and Regents Advisory Council. The agency also provided the names and biographies of the public representatives of the Regents Advisory Council members to demonstrate compliance. Although the agency provided the biographies of the Board of Regents, it did not indicate which member is serving as the public representative and meets the agency's and Secretary's definition.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency indicated which member of the Board of Regents is serving as the public representative and provided a signed certification to demonstrate compliance with this section.
 

(6) Clear and effective controls against conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts of interest, by the agency's--
(i) Board members;

(ii) Commissioners;

(iii) Evaluation team members;

(iv) Consultants;

(v) Administrative staff; and

(vi) Other agency representatives; and

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had and had applied conflict of interest policies that met the requirements of this section. In addition, the agency did not provide sufficient documentation of the conflict of interest training for its Board of Regents members, the Commissioner, and its Regents Advisory Council members, administrative staff, and appeals panel.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to address the previous concerns. Specifically, the agency provided its conflict of interest policies and procedures, which are applicable to all entities and which meet the requirements of this section. The agency also provided documentation of the training provided to all entities, as well as documentation of use of its recusal portion of the policy.
 


(b) The agency maintains complete and accurate records of--

(1) Its last full accreditation or preaccreditation reviews of each institution or program, including on-site evaluation team reports, the institution's or program's responses to on-site reports, periodic review reports, any reports of special reviews conducted by the agency between regular reviews, and a copy of the institution's or program's most recent self-study; and

(2) All decisions made throughout an institution's or program's affiliation with the agency regarding the accreditation and preaccreditation of any institution or program and substantive changes, including all correspondence that is significantly related to those decisions.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it maintains permanent records of substantive changes, to include decisions and related correspondence. In addition, the agency did not provide sufficient information and documentation concerning records storage.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its updated recordkeeping policy, which meets the requirements of this section. The agency also provided additional information and documentation regarding records storage.
 

§602.16 Accreditation and preaccreditation standards
(a) The agency must demonstrate that it has standards for accreditation, and preaccreditation, if offered, that are sufficiently rigorous to ensure that the agency is a reliable authority regarding the quality of the education or training provided by the institutions or programs it accredits. The agency meets this requirement if -
(1) The agency's accreditation standards effectively address the quality of the institution or program in the following areas:
(i) Success with respect to student achievement in relation to the institution's mission, which may include different standards for different institutions or programs, as established by the institution, including, as appropriate, consideration of course completion, State licensing examination, and job placement rates.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it consistently enforced its student achievement standard.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided site visit reports as evidence that the agency assesses an institution's success with respect to student achievement in relation to the institution's mission. In addition, the agency provided additional information concerning the guidance provided to institutions on the expectations regarding student achievement for all institutions.
 


(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;


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had adequate standards and policies regarding distance education including evidence of its evaluation of institutions which offer programs or courses via distance education. The agency also did not provide evidence of distance education training for those entities involved in accreditation activities and decisions.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised standards and policies regarding distance education. The agency applies all standards equally to programs offered residentially and via distance education or correspondence education. The agency's definition of distance education meets the regulatory requirements. In addition, the agency provided documentation of the review and approval of distance education for one institution.

With regards to training on distance education, the agency stated that it uses the institutional self-study template and the site visitor report template as the basis for training, and provided that document. The document includes regulatory citations and guidance for documentation; however, that document alone does not demonstrate that the entities involved in accreditation activities (site visitors) and decisions (Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education, and Regents Advisory Council) concerning distance education are trained on the agency's expectations and requirements in that area.

Distance education is included within the current scope of recognition for the agency. The definition of distance education in the accreditation regulations no longer encompasses correspondence education. If the agency would like to include correspondence education within its scope, it must submit a request for an expansion of scope to be reviewed and approved for that delivery mode to be included within its scope of recognition. If the agency does not wish to include it, the agency must explicitly state that it is not recognized for its accreditation of correspondence education delivery, if it wishes to continue to include references to correspondence education in its handbook and any other publications.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency provided its presentation on its expectations and requirements concerning distance education. The agency also provided documentation that the Regents Advisory Council has completed the training, and stated that the presentation is on the agenda for the next Board of Regents meeting. The presentation has also been made available online for the agency's site visitors and appeals panel members. In addition to the information and documentation previously provided, the agency has demonstrated that the entities involved in accreditation activities and decisions concerning distance education are trained on the agency's expectations and requirements in that area.

With regards to correspondence education, the agency has stated that is it not seeking to include that within its scope of recognition and has explicitly included language that it is not recognized for its accreditation of correspondence education delivery within its handbook.
 

§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--
(e) Conducts its own analysis of the self-study and supporting documentation furnished by the institution or program, the report of the on-site review, the institution's or program's response to the report, and any other appropriate information from other sources to determine whether the institution or program complies with the agency's standards; and

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it conducts its own analysis of an institution's self-study, supporting documentation, and the site visit report when making its accreditation decision.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to demonstrate that the Board of Regents conducts its own analysis when making an accreditation decision. Specifically, the agency provided its policy which requires the Board of Regents to receive and review all information and documentation pertaining to an institution prior to the accreditation decision.

In addition, the agency provided documentation of the transmission of institutional information and documentation to the Board of Regents for review.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had adequate standards and policies regarding distance education including evidence of its evaluation of institutions which offer programs or courses via distance education.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to demonstrate that it requires institutions that offer distance education to have processes in place through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the academic credit.. Specifically, the agency provided its revised standards and policies regarding distance education, and documentation of the review and approval of distance education for one institution, which included the review of student verification policies and procedures.
 

§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.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it has a review and evaluation process for the annual report in relationship to its monitoring mechanism. The agency also did not adequately address the inclusion of a policy concerning a midpoint self-study nor its implementation.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation concerning its annual report and its monitoring application. Specifically, the agency provided a description of its process to review the annual reports, and any action taken based on the information provided, to include a request for additional information. The agency also provided documentation of a blank and completed annual report, as well as Board of Regents meeting minutes to demonstrate evaluation of such reports.

With regards to the midpoint self-study, the agency stated that requirement was no longer necessary due to the information provided within the annual report. Therefore, the agency has removed that requirement from its policies.
 


(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.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it reviews and evaluates the annual headcount data it collects in monitoring the overall growth of institutions.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to demonstrate that it reviews and evaluates the annual headcount data it collects in monitoring the overall growth of institutions. Specifically, the agency provided documentation of a blank and completed annual report, as well as Board of Regents meeting minutes to demonstrate evaluation of such reports, in the previous section.
 


(d) Institutional accrediting agencies must monitor the growth of programs at institutions experiencing significant enrollment growth, as reasonably defined by the agency.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it has a significant growth policy or a definition of significant growth to meet the requirements of this section.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its policy on significant growth, to include its definition of significant growth.
 


(e) Any agency that has notified the Secretary of a change in its scope in accordance with §602.27(a)(5) must monitor the headcount enrollment of each institution it has accredited that offers distance education or correspondence education. If any such institution has experienced an increase in headcount enrollment of 50 percent or more within one institutional fiscal year, the agency must report that information to the Secretary within 30 days of acquiring such data.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that specifically addresses the requirements of this section, nor provided evidence of application of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its policy related to distance education headcount which meets the requirements of this section. The agency also indicated that it has not had the opportunity to apply the policy, and therefore could not provide documentation of implementation.
 

§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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written enforcement policy that clearly specifies the maximum length of time for good cause extensions it awards.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised enforcement policy to state that the maximum length of a good cause extension is 12 months.
 

§602.21 Review of standards.

(c) If the agency determines, at any point during its systematic program of review, that it needs to make changes to its standards, the agency must initiate action within 12 months to make the changes and must complete that action within a reasonable period of time. Before finalizing any changes to its standards, the agency must--

(1) Provide notice to all of the agency's relevant constituencies, and other parties who have made their interest known to the agency, of the changes the agency proposes to make;

(2) Give the constituencies and other interested parties adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed changes; and

(3) Take into account any comments on the proposed changes submitted timely by the relevant constituencies and by other interested parties.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written standards review policy that clearly states that the agency will take into account any comments submitted timely.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised standards review policy to require that the agency will take into account any comments submitted timely.
 

§602.22 Substantive change.

(a) If the agency accredits institutions, it must maintain adequate substantive change policies that ensure that any substantive change to the educational mission, program, or programs of an institution after the agency has accredited or preaccredited the institution does not adversely affect the capacity of the institution to continue to meet the agency's standards. The agency meets this requirement if--

(1) The agency requires the institution to obtain the agency's approval of the substantive change before the agency includes the change in the scope of accreditation or preaccreditation it previously granted to the institution; and

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written substantive change policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised substantive change policy which states that the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education approve substantive changes, and that a substantive change must be approved prior to the inclusion within the grant of accreditation. The agency provided documentation of implementation of this policy.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written substantive change policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided complete documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised substantive change policy to include the requirements in paragraph (iii) and (iv) of this section. The agency provided comprehensive documentation demonstrating its approval of a substantive change required by this section.
 

(viii)(A) If the agency's accreditation of an institution enables it to seek eligibility to participate in title IV, HEA programs, the establishment of an additional location at which the institution offers at least 50 percent of an educational program. The addition of such a location must be approved by the agency in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section unless the accrediting agency determines, and issues a written determination stating that the institution has--
(1) Successfully completed at least one cycle of accreditation of maximum length offered by the agency and one renewal, or has been accredited for at least ten years;

(2) At least three additional locations that the agency has approved; and

(3) Met criteria established by the agency indicating sufficient capacity to add additional locations without individual prior approvals, including at a minimum satisfactory evidence of a system to ensure quality across a distributed enterprise that includes--
(i) Clearly identified academic control;
(ii) Regular evaluation of the locations;
(iii) Adequate faculty, facilities, resources, and academic and student support systems;
(iv) Financial stability; and
(v) Long-range planning for expansion.
(B) The agency's procedures for approval of an additional location, pursuant to paragraph (a)(2)(viii)(A) of this section, must require timely reporting to the agency of every additional location established under this approval.

(C) Each agency determination or redetermination to preapprove an institution's addition of locations under paragraph (a)(2)(viii)(A) of this section may not exceed five years.

(D) The agency may not preapprove an institution's addition of locations under paragraph (a)(2)(viii)(A) of this section after the institution undergoes a change in ownership resulting in a change in control as defined in 34 CFR 600.31 until the institution demonstrates that it meets the conditions for the agency to preapprove additional locations described in this paragraph.

(E) The agency must have an effective mechanism for conducting, at reasonable intervals, visits to a representative sample of additional locations approved under paragraph (a)(2)(viii)(A) of this section.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not provide documentation to demonstrate its review and approval process for establishing an additional location.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information on the review and approval process used for establishing an additional location, to include the application required. Specifically, the process requires an application, site visit, site visit report, response to the report, and review and decision by the Board of Regents. However, the agency did not provide documentation of such a review, nor indicate that it has not had the opportunity to review such a substantive change.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency stated that it has not had the opportunity to review a request to establish an additional location, and therefore could not provide documentation of such.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written substantive change policy for determining when a new comprehensive evaluation is required in accordance with this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised substantive change policy to include the basis for when a new comprehensive evaluation would be required. The agency stated that it had not had the opportunity to apply this policy.
 


(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.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written substantive change policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised substantive change policy to specify an effective date and that the effective date of the substantive change is not retroactive. The agency provided documentation demonstrating its written notification of approval of a substantive change and inclusion of the substantive change in the institution's grant of accreditation.
 

§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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not make available to the public written materials describing the names, academic and professional qualifications, and relevant employment and organizational affiliations of its principal administrative staff, members of its Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education, and members of its appeals panel.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided documentation of the inclusion of such information in the agency's handbook and on its website.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written complaint policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised complaint policy which addresses both complaints against an institution and itself, and meets the requirements of this section. The agency did not provide documentation of implementation of this revised policy, nor indicated it if had not had the opportunity to do so.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency stated that it has not had the opportunity to implement its complaint policy - either related to its institutions or itself - and therefore could not provide documentation of such.
 

§602.24 Additional procedures certain institutional accreditors must have.
(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written teach-out policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised teach-out policy to include the evaluation of a teach-out plan to ensure it provides for the equitable treatment of students, and meets the requirements of this section. Additional guidance to institutions regarding the expectations of teach-out plans is provided in the agency's handbook. The agency stated that it had not had the opportunity to apply this policy.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written teach-out policy that met the notification requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised teach-out policy to include notification of other accrediting agencies, and meets the requirements of this section. Additional guidance to institutions regarding the expectations of teach-out plans is provided in the agency's handbook. The agency stated in the previous section that it had not had the opportunity to apply this policy.
 

(5) The agency must require an institution it accredits or preaccredits that enters into a teach-out agreement, either on its own or at the request of the agency, with another institution to submit that teach-out agreement to the agency for approval. The agency may approve the teach-out agreement only if the agreement is between institutions that are accredited or preaccredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, is consistent with applicable standards and regulations, and provides for the equitable treatment of students by ensuring that--
(i) The teach-out institution has the necessary experience, resources, and support services to--
(A) Provide an educational program that is of acceptable quality and reasonably similar in content, structure, and scheduling to that provided by the institution that is ceasing operations either entirely or at one of its locations;

(B) Remain stable, carry out its mission, and meet all obligations to existing students; and
(ii) The teach-out institution demonstrates that it can provide students access to the program and services without requiring them to move or travel substantial distances and that it will provide students with information about additional charges, if any.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written teach-out policy that met the requirements of this section regarding teach-out agreements, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised teach-out policy to include the requirement that institutions provide information to students about additional charges, if any, associated with a teach-out agreement, and meets the requirements of this section. Additional guidance to institutions regarding the expectations of teach-out plans is provided in the agency's handbook. The agency stated that it has not had the opportunity to apply this policy.
 


(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.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written closed institution policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its closed institution policy which meets the requirements of this section
 


(e) Transfer of credit policies.


The accrediting agency must confirm, as part of its review for initial accreditation or preaccreditation, or renewal of accreditation, that the institution has transfer of credit policies that--

(1) Are publicly disclosed in accordance with §668.43(a)(11); and

(2) Include a statement of the criteria established by the institution regarding the transfer of credit earned at another institution of higher education.
(Note: This criterion requires an accrediting agency to confirm that an institution's teach-out policies are in conformance with §668.43(a)(11).  For your convenience, here is the text of 668.43(a)(11): "A description of the transfer of credit policies established by the institution which must include a statement of the institution's current transfer of credit policies that includes, at a minimum –
(i) Any established criteria the institution uses regarding the transfer of credit earned at another institution; and
(ii) A list of institutions with which the institution has established an articulation agreement.")

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written transfer-of-credit policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its transfer-of-credit policy, which meets the requirements of this section.

Although the agency stated that institutions are reviewed for their transfer-of-credit policies and included a site visitor report template, the agency did not provide documentation of any transfer-of-credit policy review at an institution.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency provided documentation of its review of the transfer-of-credit policy at an institution, which included the site visitor's team review, the institution's response and the agency's review and decision.
 

(4) If, following the institutional review process under this paragraph (f), the agency finds systemic noncompliance with the agency’s policies or significant noncompliance regarding one or more programs at the institution, the agency must promptly notify the Secretary.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that specifically requires it to promptly notify the Secretary if the agency finds systemic noncompliance with its credit hour policies or significant noncompliance regarding one or more programs at the institution.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised credit hour notification policy, which meets the requirements of this section.
 

§602.25 Due process

The agency must demonstrate that the procedures it uses throughout the accrediting process satisfy due process. The agency meets this requirement if the agency does the following:

(a) Provides adequate written specification of its requirements, including clear standards, for an institution or program to be accredited or preaccredited.

(b) Uses procedures that afford an institution or program a reasonable period of time to comply with the agency's requests for informa­tion and documents.

(c) Provides written specification of any deficiencies identified at the institution or program examined.

(d) Provides sufficient opportunity for a written response by an institution or program regarding any deficiencies identified by the agency, to be considered by the agency within a timeframe determined by the agency, and before any adverse action is taken.

(e) Notifies the institution or program in writing of any adverse accrediting action or an action to place the institution or program on probation or show cause. The notice describes the basis.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it notifies an institution in writing of any adverse action and that it describes the basis for the action.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to due process which meets the requirements of this section. However, the agency did not provide documentation that it notifies an institution in writing of any adverse action and that it describes the basis for the action.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency stated that it has not had the opportunity to implement its revised due process policy, and therefore could not provide documentation of such.
 

(f) Provides an opportunity, upon written request of an institution or program, for the institution or program to appeal any adverse action prior to the action becoming final.
(1) The appeal must take place at a hearing before an appeals panel that--
(i) May not include current members of the agency's decision-making body that took the initial adverse action;

(ii) Is subject to a conflict of interest policy;

(iii) Does not serve only an advisory or procedural role, and has and uses the authority to make the following decisions: to affirm, amend, or reverse adverse actions of the original decision-making body; and

(iv) Affirms, amends, reverses, or remands the adverse action. A decision to affirm, amend, or reverse the adverse action is implemented by the appeals panel or by the original decision-making body, at the agency's option. In a decision to remand the adverse action to the original decision-making body for further consideration, the appeals panel must identify specific issues that the original decision-making body must address. In a decision that is implemented by or remanded to the original decision-making body, that body must act in a manner consistent with the appeals panel's decisions or instructions.
(2) The agency must recognize the right of the institution or program to employ counsel to represent the institution or program during its appeal, including to make any presentation that the agency permits the institution or program to make on its own during the appeal.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written appeals policy that met the requirements of this section, nor provided documentation of implementation of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised appeals policy which meets the requirements of this section. The agency stated that it has not had the opportunity to apply this policy, and therefore could not provide documentation of implementation.
 

(g) The agency notifies the institution or program in writing of the result of its appeal and the basis for that result.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it has a written policy that requires it to notify an institution in writing of the results of an appeal and the basis for that result.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to its appeals process which meets the requirements of this section.
 

(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.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it has a written appeals policy that specifically allows an institution to seek the review of new financial information only once, and that any determination by the agency made with respect to that review does not provide a basis for an appeal.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to its appeals process which meets the requirements of this section.
 

§602.26 Notification of accrediting decisions

The agency must demonstrate that it has established and follows written procedures requiring it to provide written notice of its accrediting decisions to the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, the appropriate accrediting agencies, and the public. The agency meets this requirement if the agency, following its written procedures--


(a) Provides written notice of the following types of decisions to the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, the appropriate accrediting agencies, and the public no later than 30 days after it makes the decision:

(1) A decision to award initial accreditation or preaccreditation to an institution or program.

(2) A decision to renew an institution's or program's accreditation or preaccreditation;

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that specifically addresses the all the requirements of this section, nor provided evidence of application of such a policy within the 30-day timeframe to all of the entities required.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to notifications of positive decisions which meets the requirements of this section. The agency provided documentation of the notification within 30 days to the Secretary, but did not provide evidence of the timely notification to the other entities required by this section.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency provided additional information and documentation to demonstrate compliance with this section. Specifically, the agency acknowledged that its notification of positive decisions to another accrediting agency was not timely, provided documentation of the notification, and stated that it will meet the timeframes required by this section and its policy in the future.

The agency also provided the documentation of the notification of a positive decision from the September 2014 meeting (attached). The institution did not hold any other accreditation, so no notice was required, and the agency therefore has not had an opportunity to demonstrate timely notification.
 


(b) Provides written notice of the following types of decisions to the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, and the appropriate accrediting agencies at the same time it notifies the institution or program of the decision, but no later than 30 days after it reaches the decision:

(1) A final decision to place an institution or program on probation or an equivalent status.

(2) A final decision to deny, withdraw, suspend, revoke, or terminate the accreditation or preaccreditation of an institution or program;

(3) A final decision to take any other adverse action, as defined by the agency, not listed in paragraph (b)(2) of this section;

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that specifically addresses the all the requirements of this section, to include probation actions or the equivalent, nor provided evidence of application of such a policy within the 30-day timeframe to all of the entities required.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to notifications of negative decisions which meets the requirements of this section. The agency provided documentation of the notification to the Secretary, but that notification was not within 30 days of the decision, did not demonstrate that it occurred at the same time it notified the institution, and did not provide evidence of the timely notification to the other entities required by this section.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency provided additional information to demonstrate compliance with this section. Specifically, the agency acknowledged that its notification of negative decisions to the Secretary was not timely, and that it will meet the timeframes required by this section and its policy in the future. As stated in Section 602.25 and the attached email, the agency has not made any negative decisions since implementation of its new policies, and therefore could not provide documentation of such. However, the agency did demonstrate timely notification to the Secretary of its positive decisions in Section 602.26(a).
 

(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
 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that addresses the all the requirements of this section, without a specific information request, nor provided evidence of application of such a policy within the 60-day timeframe to all of the entities required.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to notifications of negative decisions, which does not meet the requirements of this section. Specifically, the policy states that the agency will provide the statements and comments to the public "upon request," however this criteria requires notification to the public absent a specific request.

The agency did not provide documentation of implementation of this revised policy, nor indicated it if had not had the opportunity to do so.

Analyst Remarks to Response:
In response to the draft staff analysis, the agency provided its revised policy related to notifications of negative decisions, which meets the requirements of this section. The agency also stated that it has not had an opportunity to implement the revised policy, and therefore could not provide documentation of such.
 


(e) Notifies the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, the appropriate accrediting agencies, and, upon request, the public if an accredited or preaccredited institution or program--

(1) Decides to withdraw voluntarily from accreditation or preaccreditation, within 30 days of receiving notification from the institution or program that it is withdrawing voluntarily from accreditation or preaccreditation; or

(2) Lets its accreditation or preaccreditation lapse, within 30 days of the date on which accreditation or preaccreditation lapses.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that addresses the all the requirements of this section.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy related to notifications of voluntary withdrawal or lapse of accreditation, which meets the requirements of this section.
 

§602.27 Other information an agency must provide the Department.

(a)(6) The name of any institution or program it accredits that the agency has reason to believe is failing to meet its Title IV, HEA program responsibilities or is engaged in fraud or abuse, along with the agency's reasons for concern about the institution or program; and


(a)(7)If the Secretary requests, information that may bear upon an accredited or preaccredited institution's compliance with its Title IV, HEA program responsibilities, including the eligibility of the institution or program to participate in Title IV, HEA programs.

(b) If an agency has a policy regarding notification to an institution or program of contact with the Department in accordance with paragraph (a)(6) or (a)(7) of this section, it must provide for a case by case review of the circumstances surrounding the contact, and the need for the confidentiality of that contact. Upon a specific request by the Department, the agency must consider that contact confidential.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written fraud and abuse notification policy that clearly meets the requirements of this section.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised fraud and abuse notification policy which includes all the requirements of this section.
 

§602.28 Regard for decisions of States and other accrediting agencies.

(a) If the agency is an institutional accrediting agency, it may not accredit or preaccredit institutions that lack legal authorization under applicable State law to provide a program of education beyond the secondary level.


 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate the application of its legal authorization policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided additional information and documentation to address the previous concerns. Specifically, the agency provided its policies related to legal authorization which require an institution seeking accreditation to be legally authorized by the State of New York prior to application.
 


(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, the agency may not grant initial or renewed accreditation or preaccreditation to an institution, or a program offered by an institution, if the agency knows, or has reasonable cause to know, that the institution is the subject of--

(1) A pending or final action brought by a State agency to suspend, revoke, withdraw, or terminate the institution's legal authority to provide postsecondary education in the State;

(2) A decision by a recognized agency to deny accreditation or preaccreditation;

(3) A pending or final action brought by a recognized accrediting agency to suspend, revoke, withdraw, or terminate the institution's accreditation or preaccreditation; or

(4) Probation or an equivalent status imposed by a recognized agency.

 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that specifically addresses the requirements of this section, nor provided evidence of application of such a policy.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its policy related to legal authorization which meets the requirements of this section. The agency also indicated that it has not had the opportunity to apply the policy, and therefore could not provide documentation of implementation.
 

(c) The agency may grant accreditation or preaccreditation to an institution or program described in paragraph (b) of this section only if it provides to the Secretary, within 30 days of its action, a thorough and reasonable explanation, consistent with its standards, why the action of the other body does not preclude the agency's grant of accreditation or preaccreditation.
 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that clearly requires a timely explanation to the Secretary as to why the actions of the other agency did not preclude the Board of Regents from accrediting the institution.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy to require the agency to notify the Secretary, within 30 days of its action, a thorough and reasonable explanation, consistent with its standards, why the action of the other body does not preclude the agency's grant of accreditation.
 

(d) If the agency learns that an institution it accredits or preaccredits, or an institution that offers a program it accredits or preaccredits, is the subject of an adverse action by another recognized accrediting agency or has been placed on probation or an equivalent status by another recognized agency, the agency must promptly review its accreditation or preaccreditation of the institution or program to determine if it should also take adverse action or place the institution or program on probation or show cause.
 
Previous issue: Within the agency's petition for renewal of recognition reviewed in December 2012, Department staff found that the agency did not demonstrate that it had a written policy that clearly requires a prompt review of the affected institution's accreditation to determine if the agency should also take adverse action or place the institution on probation or show cause.

Discussion: In response to the Department's finding, the agency provided its revised policy to require a prompt review of the affected institution's accreditation to determine if the agency should also take adverse action or place the institution on probation or show cause.
 
 

PART III: THIRD PARTY COMMENTS

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