ED Issues Guidance for Accrediting Agencies in Response to COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Education (“ED”) Office of Postsecondary Education has issued guidance for accrediting agencies responding to COVID-19 interruptions. This guidance should be read in conjunction with ED’s guidance on interruptions of study related to COVID-19, which allowed accrediting agencies to waive regular distance learning review requirements and processes so that schools could quickly switch to online learning and allow enrolled students to complete their academic term.
This week’s guidance affords accreditors “temporary flexibilities” to:
- Conduct virtual site visits, subject to agency board approval, with in-person follow-up visits within a reasonable time.
- Extend the term of accreditation for an institution that is undergoing renewal of accreditation and where the institution was scheduled to have a site visit during a COVID-19 interruption.
- Provide a good cause extension to institutions on a show-cause order or probation if the agency is unable to perform a required site visit or hold a hearing with representatives of the institution because of the COVID-19 interruption.
- Provide an additional good cause extension to an institution or program that has otherwise already been provided with the agency’s maximum allowable good cause extensions.
- Waive the normal process by which accrediting agencies are required to develop, seek public comment, and enact new policies for the limited purpose of allowing agencies to implement policies discussed in the guidance, subject to the agency board’s approval (which can be obtained through telephone or videoconference and without a full membership vote or a public comment period).
Accrediting agencies should record and publish on their websites decisions to use the temporary flexibilities available in the guidance. Written records should identify the name of the school, a description of the waiver or extension, the basis for granting the waiver or extension, the date on which the agency granted the waiver or extension, a description of the suspended activity, and the vote of its board when establishing a new or revised policy in response to COVID-19.
HMBR is available to provide assistance on accreditation matters and your institution’s response to COVID-19. Should you like assistance, please contact HMBR’s Higher Education Group at 312-946-1800.