U.S.Department of Education Staff Report

to the

Senior Department Official on Recognition Compliance Issues

Recommendation Page

  1. Agency: American Bar Association ( 1952 / 2016)
    (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: Petition for Continued Recognition
  3. Current Scope of Recognition: The accreditation throughout the United States of programs in legal education that lead to the first professional degree in law as well as freestanding law schools offering such programs. This recognition also extends to the Accreditation Committee of the Section of Legal Education (Accreditation Committee) for decisions involving continued accreditation (referred to by the agency as "approval") of law schools.
  4. Requested Scope of Recognition: The accreditation throughout the United States of programs in legal education that lead to the first professional degree in law as well as freestanding law schools offering such programs. This recognition also extends to the Accreditation Committee of the Section of Legal Education (Accreditation Committee) for decisions involving continued accreditation (referred to by the agency as "approval") of law schools.
  5. Date of Advisory Committee Meeting: 06/23/2016
  6. Staff Recommendation: Continue the agency's recognition as a nationally recognized accrediting agency at this time, and require the agency to come into compliance within 12 months with the criteria listed below , and submit a compliance report due 30 days thereafter that demonstrates the agency's compliance.
  7. Issues or Problems: It does not appear that the agency meets the following sections of the Secretary’s Criteria for Recognition. These issues are summarized below and discussed in detail under the Summary of Findings section.

    -- The agency must provide the twelve resumes of staff with responsibilities for accreditation activities, as listed on the submitted organizational chart but not included as evidence, to be assessed for this criterion.
    [§602.15(a)(1)]

    -- The agency must provide the resumes for the four Council members and the one Data Policy & Collection Committee member not included in the documents provided for this criterion. [§602.15(a)(2)]

    -- The agency must amend its standards, policies and procedures to include an academic and an administrative member in its composition of the Appeals Panel and provide evidence that an academic and administrative member serves on the Appeals Panel in the one defined role to demonstrate compliance with this criterion.
    [§602.15(a)(3)]

    -- The agency standards, policies and procedures must be amended to clarify the requirements of the site evaluation questionnaire in lieu of the self-study. The agency must also provide evidence of these approved changes from the decision making bodies. [§602.16(a)(1)(viii)]

    -- The agency standards, policies and procedures must be amended to clarify the requirements of the self-study and the site evaluation questionnaire. The agency must also provide evidence of these approved changes from the decision making bodies.
    [§602.17(b)]

Executive Summary

PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE AGENCY

The American Bar Association established the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (Council) in 1893, and the Council began to conduct accrediting activities in 1923. The Council is both an institutional and a programmatic accrediting agency. The Council currently accredits 199 legal education programs. Of the legal education programs accredited/approved by the agency, 19 are freestanding law schools and maintain independent status as institutions of higher education with no affiliation with a college or university. These law schools may use the agency’s accreditation to establish eligibility to participate in HEA programs. Since the agency is a Title IV gatekeeper, it must meet the Department’s separate and independent criteria or seek a waiver of those requirements. During this recognition period, the Department received 11 third party comments and one complaint for the American Bar Association on May 31, 2016. This complaint has not been reviewed by the Department at this time.


Recognition History

The then-Commissioner of Education initially recognized the Council in 1952. The agency has been recognized since that time. The agency was last reviewed for continued recognition in 2011, when the Assistant Secretary issued a decision in July 2011 that required the agency to come into compliance with several areas of the Secretary's criteria within twelve months, and submit a compliance report 30 days thereafter demonstrating the agency's compliance with the criteria cited in the decision letter. The agency was found compliant with the cited recognition criteria as noted in the July 23, 2013, decision letter. The agency submitted its petition for renewal of its recognition which is the subject of this analysis.


PART II: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

The agency meets the requirements of the Secretary's Criteria for Recognition.

PART III: THIRD PARTY COMMENTS

Staff Analysis of 3rd Party Written Comments

The Department received eleven comments recommending the continued recognition of the agency. The commenters were all external constituents of the agency. The comments support the agency's rigorous standards that measure the quality of law schools in all areas of 602.16.