Related Institutional Accreditation Policies
These policies supplement provisions of Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents.
Note: “agency” refers to the Commissioner of Education and Board of Regents, acting in their role as an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education (“Secretary”).
Composition of Evaluation and Decision-Making Bodies
The evaluation, policy, and decision-making bodies directly involved in accreditation by the Regents and the Commissioner acting as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency shall include academic and administrative personnel. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.15 (a) (3)]
When the Regents and the Commissioner act as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency, the public shall be represented on all decision-making bodies involved in the institutional accreditation function [Ref: 34 CFR 602.15 (a) (5)].
Members of Agency Decision-Making Bodies and Related Councils and Staff
- New York State Commissioner of Education: http://usny.nysed.gov/about/commissioner_king.html
- New York State Board of Regents: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/members/
- Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation: http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/accred/handbook/advisorycouncil.htm
- Members of the Accreditation Appeals Board and agency staff are listed in this handbook.
[Ref: 34 CFR 602.23 (a)]
Maintenance of Records of Accreditation Reviews and Decisions
When the Regents and the commissioner act as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency, complete and accurate records of the last two full accreditation reviews of each institution shall be retained. These records include the institution's most recent self-study report, on-site evaluation reports, institutional responses to on-site reports, and other reports, annual reports, other periodic reports, any reports of special reviews conducted by the Department between regular reviews, all accreditation decisions, including adverse actions, and all correspondence with the institution that is significantly related to decisions about its accreditation.
Permanent records also include substantive change requests, including but not limited to applications for changes in scope of accreditation and all related documentation, including review materials and decisions. [Ref:34 CFR 602.15(b)]
Review of Accreditation Standards
A review of all institutional accreditation standards in Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents shall be conducted on a repeating four-year cycle. The purpose of the comprehensive review in each cycle will be an examination of the adequacy, in practice, of the standards for the evaluation of educational quality. A review plan and schedule within this cycle shall be developed and implemented by accreditation staff of the Department in consultation with the Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation. Complaints about accreditation standards or procedures will be considered in the cyclical program of comprehensive review of its standards. In addition, accreditation standards and their applications shall be examined continuously, based on accreditation experience and feedback from pertinent constituencies, to assure currency with evolving standards in distance education and other evolving areas.
The Regents shall initiate action on changes to the standards within 12 months of identifying a need for such changes. Such changes shall take effect within a stated time following formal adoption by the Regents. Revisions of standards or adoption of new standards by the Board of Regents shall take into account any recommendations of the Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation and shall include an opportunity for comment by accredited institutions, other relevant constituencies, and the public for a period of not less than 45 days [Ref: 34 CFR 602.21(a)].
Public Comment Process
The agency is a public entity in New York, which means that it is required to seek public comment on its proposed regulatory activities (including those related to its institutional accreditation function). As a public entity, the agency is mandated under the New York State Administrative Procedures Act to conduct its regulatory activities in an environment of public access and observation. Regulatory amendments proposed by the agency, for example, require a 45-day public comment period. The agency considers all comments received on a given regulatory proposal. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.21 (c)]
Student Achievement Benchmarks
As noted in the accreditation Self-Study document, and in consideration of standards described under section 4-1.4(b) of Regents Rules, information needed to assess compliance with student achievement benchmarks (such as graduation rates) may be accessed through such resources as State data available at http://eservices.nysed.gov/orisre/NYStotalParams.jsp. [Ref:34 CFR 602.16(a)(1)(i)]
Policy on Significant Enrollment Growth
The agency will request additional reporting from institutions that exceed a 20 percent growth in headcount enrollment in a single institutional academic year (July 1 through June 30), as reported through required annual reports or other mechanisms. In addition, the agency may request additional reporting when, in the judgment of the agency, the rate of enrollment growth may affect the institution’s capacity to comply with accreditation standards. The additional reporting may include, but is not limited to, self-analyses of the growth and its effects on the institution; agency reviews of the institution’s financial viability; agency assessment of concomitant growth in faculty, administrative, and other resources; and a compliance review (see section 4-1.5(b) of Regents Rules).
Special provisions for distance education: If an institution whose scope of accreditation includes distance education experiences an increase in headcount enrollment of 50 percent or more within one institutional fiscal year, the agency will report that information to the Secretary within 30 days of acquiring such data. [Ref:34 CFR 602.19(d) and (e)]
Evaluation of Teach-Out Plans/Closed Institutions
Under Regents accreditation standards, a teach-out plan means a written plan that provides for the equitable treatment of students if an institution or an institutional location that provides 100 percent of at least one program ceases to operate prior to all students completing their program of study.
Institutions selected to complete a teach-out of the closing institution must have the following attributes and capabilities:
- Accreditation or pre-accreditation from a nationally recognized accrediting agency.
- One or more programs registered by the State authorization agency that are comparable in structure, content, and scheduling to those in which students were enrolled at the closing institution.
- Student access to instruction and related services without incurring substantial, additional travel.
- No charges or tuition rates beyond those charged by the closing institution. Any exception for cause will be determined by the Commissioner. In such cases, if additional charges are permitted, the institution will be required to notify students about those charges prior to enrollment.
If the agency approves a teach-out plan that includes a program that is accredited by another recognized accrediting agency, it will notify that agency of its approval. [Ref:34 CFR 602.24(c)(3)]
If an institution the agency accredits closes without a teach-out plan or agreement, the agency will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Education and the state authorization agency to assist students in finding reasonable opportunities to complete their education without additional charges.
Review of Complaints
Complaints About Regents-Accredited Institutions
Complaints concerning an institution’s compliance with Regents accreditation standards should be directed to agency staff by using the
complaint form available on the State Education Department Web site at http://www.highered.nysed.gov/ocue/spr/COMPLAINTFORMINFO.html.
If the agency finds that the complaint addresses compliance with an accreditation standard, it will forward the complaint to the institution. The agency will provide the institution at least 30 days from the date of the agency’s inquiry to respond. Agency staff will then assess the original complaint and institution’s response to determine the need for additional action. The complainant and the institution will be notified of the agency’s findings.
Complaints About This Accrediting Agency
In responding to complaints against itself as an accrediting agency, it is the agency’s policy to ask the office that is the subject of the complaint to review the matter and resolve it if possible or, alternatively, to explain why it cannot be resolved in the manner desired by the complainant. It is the agency’s policy to respond to any such complaints within 30 days of receipt. The following steps are taken to support an unbiased review:
- If the complaint involves a person or persons, the agency will ask an administrator outside the accreditation staff to provide an unbiased assessment of the complaint and recommend appropriate action.
- If the complaint is about accreditation standards or procedures, the agency will assign the review to the State Education Department’s Office of Counsel to provide an unbiased assessment of the complaint and recommend appropriate action.
In addition, a complainant is informed that he or she may directly contact the U.S. Secretary of Education with a complaint regarding the accreditation standards or procedures of the agency. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.23 (c)].
Provision for Public Correction of Incorrect or Misleading Information on Accreditation
An institution that designates the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education as its nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency for Title IV purposes shall make public correction, as specified by the Regents and the Commissioner, of incorrect or misleading information related to the accreditation status of the institution, the contents of reports of on-site reviews, or the accreditation actions of the Regents and the Commissioner, with respect to the institution. Subsequent to an investigation, correction may include all or some of the following: (1) posting of the correction on the institution's web site; (2) correction notices in the media in which the misrepresentation has been disseminated; and (3) letters of correction to any agency or organization to which the institution provided the misleading or inaccurate information, all nationally recognized agencies that accredit one or more programs at the institution or the institution as a whole, the U.S. Secretary of Education; or any interested parties that make inquiry about the misrepresentation.
Persistent or serious misrepresentation may provide a basis for adverse accreditation action by the Regents and the Commissioner pursuant to Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.23 (e)]
Notifications of Accreditation Decisions
The following entities shall be notified of the following actions no later than 30 days after the agency’s decision [Ref: 34 CFR 602.26 (a,b)] :
(1) Entities: Secretary of Education (by letter), appropriate accrediting agencies (by letter), and the public (by public notice in the New York State Register, published by the New York State Department of State, and on the accreditation web site of the Office of Higher Education).
(2) Actions: A decision to award initial accreditation to an institution or to renew its accreditation; a final decision to place an institution or program on probation or an equivalent status; a final decision to deny, withdraw or terminate the accreditation of an institution; a final decision to take any other adverse accreditation action or a decision by an accredited institution to withdraw from or let lapse its accreditation.
In addition, the agency shall provide to the Secretary and appropriate accrediting agencies written notice of any action cited under §602.26(b)(2) within 30 days of the date the action is taken. Within 60 days after a decision to deny, withdraw, suspend, revoke or terminate an institution’s accreditation, the Board of Regents will provide a brief statement to the Secretary and the public summarizing the reasons for the adverse action. It will provide the institution an opportunity to comment with regard to the decision of adverse action and forward those statements and comments, if any, to the Secretary. It will also make such statements and comments, if any, available to the public, upon request.
Notifications to Institutions
Consistent with Regents Rule section 4-1.5(a)(10), the agency notifies institutions in writing of action on an institution’s application for accreditation, renewal of accreditation, or change in scope of accreditation. Notifications of adverse action include the basis for that action. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.25 (a-e)]
- Consistent with Regents Rule section 4-1.5(a)(11), the agency notifies institutions in writing of the results of an appeal and the basis for that result. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.25 (g)]
Voluntary Withdrawal and Lapses
It is the agency’s policy to notify the Secretary, the appropriate State licensing or authorizing agency, the appropriate accrediting agencies, and, upon, request, the public if an accredited institution:
- Decides to withdraw voluntarily from accreditation, within 30 days of receiving notification from the institution that is withdrawing voluntarily from accreditation; or
- Lets its accreditation, within 30 days of the date on which accreditation lapses. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.26e].
Information to be Provided to the U.S. Secretary of Education
- In conducting an accreditation review, the agency reviews and evaluates the reliability and accuracy of the institution’s assignment of credit hours. If the agency finds systemic noncompliance with its credit hour requirements, or significant credit-hour noncompliance in one or more programs at the institution, the agency will promptly notify the Secretary. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.24(f)(4)]
- The Secretary of Education will be provided a copy of any annual report prepared by the Regents and the Commissioner acting in their capacity as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency.
- The Secretary of Education will be provided a copy, updated annually, of the directory of institutions accredited by the Regents and the Commissioner acting as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency.
- The Secretary of Education will be provided a written data summary of the Regents and the Commissioner’s activities as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency during the previous year if requested by the Secretary.
- The Secretary of Education will be provided any proposed change in policies, procedures or accreditation standards that might affect the Regents and the commissioner's scope of recognition or compliance with the criteria for recognition at the same time such proposed change is published in the State Register.
The agency will submit to the U.S. Department of Education the name of any institution or program that the agency has reason to believe is failing to meet its HEA Title IV responsibilities or is engaged in fraud or abuse, together with the reasons for the agency's concern. The agency will also submit, on the Secretary’s request, information that may bear on an accredited 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. The agency considers these contacts with the Secretary to be confidential. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.27].
Regard for the Decisions of States and Other Accrediting Agencies
- As stated in section 4-1.3(a)(1) of the Rules of the Board of Regents, institutions seeking accreditation from the agency must satisfy New York State’s authorization requirements for postsecondary institutions. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.28(a)]
- Except as provided, the agency will not grant accreditation to an institution if it knows, or has reasonable cause to know, that the institution is the subject of
- 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.;
- A decision by a recognized agency to deny accreditation or preaccreditation;
- A pending or final action brought by a recognized accrediting agency to suspend, revoke, withdraw, or terminate the institution’s accreditation or preaccreditation; or
- Probation or an equivalent status imposed by a recognized agency. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.28(b)]
- The agency may grant accreditation to an institution, as identified in the preceding paragraph, 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. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.28(c)]
- If the agency learns that an institution it accredits is the subject of an adverse action by another accrediting agency or has been place on probation or an equivalent status by another recognized agency, the agency must promptly review its accreditation of the institution to determine if it should also take adverse action or place the institution on probation or show cause. [Ref: 34 CFR 602.28(d)].