Process Overview: Accreditation or Renewal of Accreditation
Note: The following overview highlights elements of the process for reviewing institutions seeking accreditation or renewal of accreditation by the Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education. The basis for this is Subpart 4-1 of Regents Rules. The Department may alter the process due to extenuating circumstances and in concurrence with Regents Rules.
Regents Rules on institutional accreditation and Policies Related to the Criteria of the U.S. Secretary of Education define the requirements of the accreditation process and related responsibilities. Regents accredited institutions should familiarize themselves with those standards and policies.
The New York State Board of Regents and the Commissioner of Education are an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education (“Secretary”). An institution may apply to the Regents and the Commissioner for accreditation for the purpose of establishing eligibility to participate in Title IV student aid programs established by the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. An application for accreditation can occur only after the Regents and the Commissioner, acting in their capacities as a State approval agency, have conferred degree authority and registered the institution’s program(s). (Note: institutions that hold provisional charters do not have the ability to confer degrees.)
Institutional accreditation focuses on institutional policies and on the qualitative effectiveness of the institution as a whole, particularly with respect to promoting student achievement and development. It takes into account an institution’s compliance with its responsibilities as a recipient of Title IV funds if it participates in such programs.
An institution may be accredited for a period of up to ten years or for a shorter time, at the discretion of the Regents and the Commissioner. During its accreditation period, an institution provides annual reports for review to assure sustained compliance with all accreditation standards. Information from annual reports or from other agencies related to compliance with accreditation standards may occasion a review of the accreditation standing of an institution. Such review may take the form of reports on specified topics, a special on-site review, or acceleration of the scheduled periodic accreditation review.
The Department publishes a list of institutions scheduled for accreditation or renewal of accreditation review in the New York State Register, requesting third-party comment on the institution's qualifications for accreditation.
Application for Initial Accreditation
An institution seeking initial institutional accreditation from the Regents and the Commissioner submits a letter of interest describing the scope of requested accreditation. It shows that it has all required State approvals and that it is not under adverse action by the Federal government (with respect to use of Title IV funds) or by another nationally recognized accrediting agency. An institution will not be reviewed for possible accreditation until the self-study can document student outcomes consistent with the institution's statement of mission, purpose and objectives. Generally, this means the institution has graduated at least one class.
Application for Renewal of Accreditation
Institutions seeking renewal of accreditation shall submit a letter of intent requesting renewal at least 18 months prior to the end date of the institution’s current accreditation period. Following a review and direction by the Department, the institution may begin the self-study process.
Preparation of a Self-study
Upon receipt of an application for accreditation, the professional accreditation staff member of the Office of Higher Education who has been designated as the review coordinator contacts the institution to discuss the institution’s self-study. A Self-Study Guide, including the accreditation standards, examples of compliance, suggested documentation, and other pertinent materials, is provided to the institution. Following receipt of the institution's self-study, the review coordinator examines the self-study to determine the institution's readiness for a site visit by a peer review team. The Department may require the institution to submit additional information.
The Department invites the public to comment on an institution's qualifications for accreditation by publishing in the New York State Register, or its successor publication, a notice that the institution is being considered for accreditation action.
Review Team Selection
The review coordinator establishes the peer review team before the site visit. The team consists of outside peer reviewers as well as professional accreditation staff from the Department. Team size varies, depending on the scope of the institution; however, it is usually in the range of four to six persons. Team members may include faculty and administrators from comparable institutions in New York and other states. Care is taken to identify persons who are expert in their fields, objective in their judgments, and who have no conflicts of interest. Team members have undergone training on institutional accreditation conducted by the State Education Department, including coverage of conflicts of interest and recusals. The Department will select one peer member to serve as chair of the review team. The Department provides the names and affiliations of proposed team members to the institution, which may request substitutions when there is an actual or apparent conflict of interest. Conflict of interest guidelines are also provided in advance to the institution.
Team Preparation for the Visit
The institution provides each team member with the completed self-study at least 30 days prior to the visit, if possible. At the same time, the Department’s review coordinator provides the team members with guidelines for conducting review activities, guidelines on conflict of interest, the format for the reporting of findings, recommendations and suggestions, a tentative schedule of review activities during the visit, and supplementary guidelines for use in assessment activities and determinations. Team members with a conflict of interest under the written guidelines are expected to recuse themselves from the review.
Team members are asked to review the self-study and the Department's review standards and procedures prior to the visit and to seek any needed clarifications from the Department's review coordinator. Once on site, the team typically meets before beginning its review activities to review assignments and identify any information needs.
The purpose of the site visit to the institution is to assess compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Site visits usually last 1-3 days. During the visit, team members typically interview faculty, administrators, and students; visit classes; review course syllabi and student work; examine student and faculty folders; examine administrative records and policy statements; assess physical facilities, library resources, and instructional equipment; and visit branch campuses. Team members meet regularly during the site visit to share observations, work on recommendations under the guidance of the chair, and clarify any uncertainties related to the application of standards. Particular attention is given to the development of findings related to the institution's qualitative effectiveness in promoting successful student outcomes and development in relation to applicable standards and the institution’s mission and scope.
At the end of the site visit, the chair, other members of the team and the Department's review coordinator may meet with the chief executive officer and any staff he or she may designate. The team chair and the review coordinator outline subsequent steps in the review process. No accreditation recommendation is announced at this time.
Report of the Visit
After the site visit, each team member submits to the team chair and the review coordinator a written report of observations and findings concerning the institution's compliance with the accreditation standards and any recommendations and suggestions for institutional improvement in relation to the standards. Team member reports are advisory and confidential. The team chair prepares a draft team report based on the members' written reports. When the team reaches agreement on a version of the team report, it is submitted to the review coordinator, who then prepares a preliminary draft compliance report. The preliminary report includes the team's recommendations for institutional improvement or compliance with specific standards. Following review of the preliminary draft by Department accreditation staff, the review coordinator may return to the team for final clarifications. The Department then transmits the draft report to the chief executive officer of the institution and asks the institution to note any factual errors, respond to particular requests for clarification or additional information, and provide any comments. The institution has 30 days to respond in writing to the draft compliance report, starting from the date the Department sends the draft report.
The Department sends the final compliance report to the institution after the Department receives the institution’s response. The final compliance report consists of the draft report, the institution's response, and the Department’s preliminary recommendation with respect to accreditation action and a summary of the institution's compliance with the standards.
The Department transmits the final compliance report and a preliminary recommendation for institutional accreditation action to the Regents Advisory Council on Institutional Accreditation (RAC). In addition, the Council receives the self-study and other pertinent supporting documentation at least 20 days prior to the scheduled Council meeting. The Council reviews these materials at its next available meeting, drawing on the observations and recommendations of assigned readers appointed by the Council Chair. Accreditation staff introduces the institution and presents an outline of the process and the recommended action. Typically, a member of the peer review team presents a summary of the team’s findings and recommendations. The Council invites representatives of the institution under review and, at the Council’s discretion, other interested parties, to make oral presentations. After concluding its review, the Council votes on a recommendation on accreditation action to the Commissioner and the Board of Regents, based on the entire record, including the institution’s self-study and the compliance review report. (The possible actions are noted in the next section.) The Department transmits a copy of this recommendation to the institution.
The institution and/or the Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education has the right to appeal the Council's findings and recommendations. If neither the institution nor the Deputy Commissioner appeals, the Commissioner adopts the Council’s findings and recommendations as the Commissioner’s findings and recommendations to the Regents. At a regularly scheduled public meeting, the Board of Regents considers the complete record of the accreditation process (including the institution’s self-study, compliance review report, and the record of the RAC) and makes the final determination on accreditation action. Representatives of the applicant institution may be present at this meeting; however, they do not participate in discussion of their application.
The Regents may act or may defer action pending further consideration by the Council or the receipt of additional information. If the Regents take adverse action as defined in Regents Rules §4-1.2(d) on an application for institutional accreditation or renewal of accreditation, a statement of the reason(s) for this action will be provided to the applicant institution.
Possible Accreditation Actions
- Accreditation without conditions. The institution is in full compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Any follow-up matters are not, in the judgment of the Regents, of a nature or scope that affects the institution’s capacity to maintain adherence to the institutional accreditation standards for the period of accreditation. Recommendations or any follow-up reports relate either to minor compliance matters or to the strengthening of practices that meet the standards of compliance. Accreditation without conditions may be for a period of up to ten years. Accreditation without conditions may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
- Accreditation with conditions. The institution is in substantial compliance with the standards for institutional accreditation. Any areas of non-compliance are not of such nature or scope as to call into question the institution’s substantive adherence to the institutional accreditation standards during the term of accreditation. The institution has demonstrated the intent and capacity to rectify identified deficiencies and to strengthen practice in marginally acceptable matters within no more than two years. The institution will be required to take steps to remedy issues raised in the review for accreditation and to provide reports and/or submit to site visits concerning such issues. Accreditation with conditions may be for a period of up to ten years, contingent on a finding of compliance within no more than two years on any areas for deficiency cited in the Regents accreditation action. Accreditation with conditions may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
- Probationary accreditation. Probationary accreditation means accreditation for a set period of time, not to exceed two years, during which the institution shall come into compliance with standards for accreditation through corrective action. During this period, the institution provides documentation of compliance with standards, particularly all standards that were not met at the time of the Regents action. A follow-up visit by Department staff and/or peer reviewers may be required following provision of a required report. Probationary accreditation is only available to institutions seeking renewal of accreditation.
- Denial of accreditation. The institution does not meet standards for institutional accreditation and cannot reasonably be expected to meet those standards within two years. Denial of accreditation may apply to institutions seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation.
Summary of Selected Policies
- Institutional accreditation for Title IV purposes is the outcome of an application that is separate from application for State authorizations by the Regents and the Commissioner of Education. All determinations about accreditation and renewal of accreditation are based solely on the defined standards and requirements for institutional accreditation set forth in Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents. Approvals by the Regents and the Commissioner, acting singly or together as a State agency, do not impute accreditation by the Regents and the Commissioner acting as a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency.
Institutions accredited by the Board of Regents and Commissioner must adhere to the separate and distinct State authorization and institutional accreditation standards and processes. An institution’s action to address an accreditation requirement does not serve to address or initiate actions that may be needed for State authorization purposes. Likewise, actions taken to address State authorizations do not initiate actions that may be needed for purposes of Regents institutional accreditation.
For example, State authorization and Regents institutional accreditation standards that address the addition of new institutional locations may differ from one another. Institutions are responsible for initiating required actions to maintain compliance with both State authorization and Regents institutional accreditation requirements.
- Denial, non-renewal, or other adverse accreditation action, or voluntary withdrawal by an institution, does not impute loss of State approval.
- In the event of institutional closure, State authorization policies and processes relative to that action do not impute compliance with teach-out requirements of the standards for accreditation.
- Accreditation and renewal of accreditation are not granted to any institution that is under adverse action by another nationally recognized accrediting agency, by the Federal government with respect to Title IV participation, or by the State approval agency.
- Institutions and the Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education may appeal accreditation recommendations of the Advisory Council, as set forth in Part 4 of the Rules of the Board of Regents.