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U.S. Department of Education
PublicationDate: 4/1/96





Part 602 -- Secretary's Procedures and Criteria for the
Recognition of Accrediting Agencies


The procedures and criteria for recognizing accrediting agencies
are contained in Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
They were published in the Federal Register on April 29, 1994 as
follows:

Subpart A - General Provisions

Sec.
602.1 Purpose.
602.2 Definitions.
602.3 Organization and membership.
602.4 Submission of information to the Secretary by
recognized accrediting agencies.
602.5 Notice to accrediting agencies of Federal actions.

Subpart B - Recognition and Termination Procedures

602.10 Application for recognition.
602.11 Preliminary review by the Secretary.
602.12 Review by the National Advisory Committee on
Institutional Quality and Integrity.
602.13 Review and decision by the Secretary.
602.14 Limitation, suspension, or termination of recognition.
602.15 Appeals procedures.
602.16 Publication of list of recognized agencies.

Subpart C - Criteria for Secretarial Recognition

602.20 Geographic scope of accrediting activities.
602.21 Administrative and fiscal responsibility.
602.22 Accreditation experience.
602.23 Application of standards.
602.24 Accreditation processes.
602.25 Substantive change.
602.26 Required accreditation standards.
602.27 Additional required operating procedures.
602.28 Due process for institutions and programs.
602.29 Notification of accrediting agency decisions.
602.30 Regard for decisions of States and other accrediting
agencies.

Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b, unless otherwise noted.
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Subpart A - General Provisions

602.1 Purpose.

(a)(1) This part establishes procedures and criteria for
the Secretary's recognition of accrediting agencies. The purpose
of the Secretary's recognition of agencies is to ensure that
these agencies are, for the purposes of the Higher Education Act
of 1965, as amended (HEA), or for other Federal purposes,
reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training
offered by the institutions of higher education or the higher
education programs they accredit.
(2) The Secretary's recognition of an accrediting agency is
based on the Secretary's determination that the agency satisfies
the requirements of this part.
(b) The Secretary only grants recognition to those
accrediting agencies that--
(1) Accredit--
(i) Institutions of higher education, provided that
accreditation by the agency is a required element in enabling
those institutions to establish eligibility to participate in HEA
programs; or
(ii) Institutions of higher education or higher education
programs, provided that accreditation by the agency is a required
element in enabling those institutions or programs to establish
eligibility to participate in other programs administered by the
Department or by other Federal agencies;
(2) Meet the organization and membership requirements
specified in 602.3;
(3) For agencies already recognized by the Secretary,
comply with the information sharing requirements specified in
602.4; and
(4) Satisfy the criteria for Secretarial recognition
specified in Subpart C of this part.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.2 Definitions.

The following definitions apply to terms used in this part:
Accreditation means the status of public recognition that an
accrediting agency grants to an educational institution or
program that meets the agency's established standards and
requirements.
Accrediting agency or agency means a legal entity, or that
part of a legal entity, that conducts accrediting activities
through voluntary, non-Federal peer evaluations and makes
decisions concerning the accreditation or preaccreditation status
of institutions, programs, or both.
Act means the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
Adverse accrediting action means the denial, withdrawal,
suspension, or termination of accreditation or preaccreditation,
or any comparable accrediting action an agency may take against
an institution or program, except that placing an institution or
program on probation or issuing a show cause order against an
institution or program is not an adverse accrediting action
unless it is so defined by the accrediting agency.
Advisory Committee means the National Advisory Committee on
Institutional Quality and Integrity.
Branch campus means (1) a location of an institution of
higher education that meets the definition of this term in 34 CFR
600.2, and (2) any location of an institution, other than the
main campus, at which the institution offers at least 50 percent
of an educational program.
Designated Department official means the official in the
Department of Education to whom the Secretary has delegated the
responsibilities indicated in this part.
Final accrediting action means a final determination by an
accrediting agency regarding the accreditation or
preaccreditation status of an institution or program that is not
subject to any further appeal within the agency.
Institution of higher education or institution means an
educational institution that qualifies or may qualify as an
eligible institution under 34 CFR Part 600.
Institutional accrediting agency means an agency that
accredits institutions of higher education.
Nationally recognized accrediting agency, nationally
recognized agency, or recognized agency means an accrediting
agency that is recognized by the Secretary under this part.
Preaccreditation means the status of public recognition that
an accrediting agency grants to an institution or program for a
limited period of time that signifies that the agency has
determined that the institution or program is progressing towards
accreditation and is likely to attain accreditation before the
expiration of that limited period of time.
Program means a postsecondary educational program offered by
an institution of higher education that leads to an academic or
professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational
credential.
Programmatic accrediting agency means an agency that
accredits specific educational programs that prepare students for
entry into a profession, occupation, or vocation.
Representative of the public means a person who is not (1)
an employee, member of the governing board, owner, or shareholder
of, or consultant to, an institution or program that either is
accredited by the agency or has applied for accreditation; (2) a
member of any trade association or membership organization
related to, affiliated with, or associated with the accrediting
agency; or (3) a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of an
individual identified in (1) or (2).
Secretary means the Secretary of the U.S. Department of
Education or any official or employee of the Department acting
for the Secretary under a delegation of authority.
State means a State of the Union, American Samoa, the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, the
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Virgin Islands, and
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Teach-out agreement means a written agreement between
accredited institutions that provides for the equitable treatment
of students if one of those institutions stops offering an
educational program before all students enrolled in that program
complete the program.
Vocational education means an instructional program, below
the bachelor's level, designed to prepare individuals with the
skills and training required for employment in a specific trade,
occupation, or profession related to the instructional program.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.3 Organization and membership.

(a) The Secretary recognizes only the following categories
of accrediting agencies:
(1) A State agency that--
(i) Has as a principal purpose the accrediting of
institutions of higher education, higher education programs, or
both; and
(ii) Has been listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency on or before October 1, 1991;
(2) An accrediting agency that--
(i) Has a voluntary membership of institutions of higher
education;
(ii) Has as a principal purpose the accrediting of
institutions of higher education and that accreditation is a
required element in enabling those institutions to participate in
programs authorized under this Act; and
(iii) Satisfies the "separate and independent" requirements
contained in paragraph (b) of this section;
(3) An accrediting agency that--
(i) Has a voluntary membership; and
(ii) Has as its principal purpose the accrediting of higher
education programs, or higher education programs and institutions
of higher education, and that accreditation is a required element
in enabling those institutions or programs, or both, to
participate in Federal programs not authorized under this Act;
and
(4) An accrediting agency that, for purposes of determining
eligibility for Title IV, HEA programs--
(i)(A) Has a voluntary membership of individuals
participating in a profession; or
(B) Has as its principal purpose the accrediting of
programs within institutions that are accredited by another
nationally recognized accrediting agency; and
(ii)(A) Satisfies the "separate and independent"
requirements contained in paragraph (b) of this section; or
(B) Obtains a waiver from the Secretary under paragraph (d)
of this section of the "separate and independent" requirements
contained in paragraph (b) of this section.
(b) For purposes of this section, "separate and
independent" means that--
(1) The members of the agency's decision-making body--who
make its accrediting decisions, establish its accreditation
policies, or both--are not elected or selected by the board or
chief executive officer of any related, associated, or affiliated
trade association or membership organization;
(2) At least one member of the agency's decision-making
body is a representative of the public, with no less than one-seventh of the
body consisting of representatives of the public;
(3) The agency has established and implemented guidelines
for each member of the decision-making body to avoid conflicts of
interest in making decisions;
(4) The agency's dues are paid separately from any dues paid
to any related, associated, or affiliated trade association or
membership organization; and
(5) The agency's budget is developed and determined by the
agency without review by or consultation with any other entity or
organization.
(c) The Secretary considers that any joint use of
personnel, services, equipment, or facilities by an accrediting
agency and a related, associated, or affiliated trade association
or membership organization does not violate the provisions of
paragraph (b) of this section if--
(1) The agency pays the fair market value for its
proportionate share of the joint use; and
(2) The joint use does not compromise the independence and
confidentiality of the accreditation process.
(d)(1) Upon request of an accrediting agency described in
paragraph (a)(4) of this section, the Secretary waives the
"separate and independent" requirements of this section if the
agency demonstrates that--
(i) The agency has been listed by the Secretary as a
nationally recognized agency on or before October 1, 1991; and
(ii) The existing relationship between the agency and the
related, associated, or affiliated trade association or member-
ship organization does not compromise the independence of the
accreditation process.
(2) To demonstrate that the existing relationship between
the agency and the related, associated, or affiliated trade
association or membership organization does not compromise the
independence of the accreditation process, the agency must show
that--
(i) The related, associated, or affiliated trade
association or membership organization plays no role in making or
ratifying the accreditation decisions of the agency;
(ii) The agency has sufficient budgetary and administrative
autonomy to carry out its accrediting functions; and
(iii) The agency provides to the related, associated, or
affiliated trade association or membership organization only
information it makes available to the public.
(3) An agency seeking a waiver of the "separate and
independent" requirements contained in this section must apply
for the waiver each time it seeks recognition or renewal of
recognition by the Secretary.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.4 Submission of information to the Secretary by recognized
accrediting agencies.

Each accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary shall
submit to the Secretary--
(a) Notice of final accrediting actions taken by the agency
with respect to the institutions and programs it accredits;
(b) A copy of any annual report prepared by the agency;
(c) A copy, updated annually, of the agency's directory of
accredited institutions and programs;
(d) A summary of the agency's major accrediting activities
during the previous year (an annual data summary), if so
requested by the Secretary to carry out the Secretary's
responsibilities related to this part;
(e) Upon request of the Secretary, information regarding an
accredited or preaccredited institution's compliance with its
Title IV, HEA program responsibilities, including its eligibility
to participate in Title IV, HEA programs, for the purpose of
assisting the Secretary in resolving problems with the
institution's participation in these programs;
(f) The name of any institution or program accredited by
the agency that the agency has reason to believe is failing to
meet its Title IV, HEA program responsibilities or is engaged in
fraud or abuse and the reason for the agency's concern; and
(g) Any proposed change in the agency's policies,
procedures, or accreditation standards that might alter the
agency's--
(1) Scope of recognition; or
(2) Compliance with the requirements of this part.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.5 Notice to accrediting agencies of Federal actions.

(a) If the Secretary takes an action against an institution
or program, the Secretary notifies the appropriate accrediting
agency or agencies no later than 10 days after taking that
action.
(b) If the Secretary is informed that another Federal
agency is taking an action against an institution or program, the
Secretary notifies the appropriate accrediting agency or agencies
as soon as possible but no later than 10 days after learning of
that action.
(c) If an institution is referred for review under the
State Postsecondary Review Program, the Secretary notifies the
institution's accrediting agency or agencies at the same time the
Secretary notifies the State Postsecondary Review Entity.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)





Subpart B - Recognition and Termination Procedures

602.10 Application for recognition.

(a) An accrediting agency seeking initial or renewed
recognition by the Secretary as a nationally recognized
accrediting agency submits a written application to the
Secretary. The application for recognition consists of--
(1) A statement of the agency's requested scope of recogni-
tion;
(2) Evidence of the agency's compliance with the criteria
for recognition set forth in this part; and
(3) Supporting documentation.
(b) An accrediting agency's application for recognition
constitutes a grant of authority to the Secretary to conduct site
visits and to gain access to agency records, personnel, and
facilities on an announced or unannounced basis.
(c) The Secretary does not make available to the public any
confidential agency materials examined by Department personnel or
the Secretary as part of the Secretary's evaluation of either an
accrediting agency's application for recognition or its
compliance with the requirements for recognition.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.11 Preliminary review by the Secretary.

(a) Upon receipt of an accrediting agency's application for
initial or renewed recognition, the Secretary--
(1) Establishes a schedule for the review of the agency by
the designated Department official, the National Advisory
Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and the
Secretary;
(2) Publishes notice of the agency's application in the
FEDERAL REGISTER, inviting public comment on the agency's
compliance with the requirements for recognition and stipulating
a deadline for receipt of public comment; and
(3) Provides State Postsecondary Review Entities and other
appropriate organizations with copies of the notice described in
paragraph (a)(2) of this section.
(b)(1) The designated Department official analyzes the
accrediting agency's application to determine whether the agency
satisfies the requirements of this part, taking into account all
available relevant information concerning the compliance of the
agency with the requirements for recognition. The analysis in-
cludes--
(i) Site visits, on an announced or unannounced basis, to
the agency and, at the Secretary's discretion, institutions or
programs it accredits;
(ii) Review of public comment and other third-party
information received or solicited by the Secretary, as well as
any other information provided to the Secretary, concerning the
performance of the agency in relation to the requirements of this
part; and
(iii) Review of complaints or legal actions involving the
agency.
(2) The designated Department official's evaluation may
also include a review of information directly related to institu-
tions or programs accredited or preaccredited by the agency,
relative to their compliance with the accrediting agency's stan-
dards, the effectiveness of the agency's standards, and the
agency's application of those standards.
(c) The designated Department official--
(1) Prepares a written analysis of the accrediting agency;
(2) Sends the analysis and all supporting documentation,
including all third-party comments received by the Secretary, to
the agency no later than 45 days before the Advisory Committee
meeting; and
(3) Specifies a time period, which will be no later than 14
days before the Advisory Committee meeting, during which the
agency may provide the designated Department official with any
written comments on the analysis.
(d) The accrediting agency provides any written comments it
chooses to make to the designated Department official before the
expiration of the time period specified in paragraph (c)(3) of
this section.
(e) The designated Department official provides the Adviso-
ry Committee with the accrediting agency's application and sup-
porting documentation, the designated Department official's
analysis of the application, all information relied upon by the
designated Department official in developing the analysis, any
response by the agency to the analysis or third-party comment,
any Department concurrence with or rebuttal to the agency's
response, and any third-party information the Secretary receives
regarding the agency.
(f) The designated Department official provides the agency
with a copy of any Department rebuttal provided to the Advisory
Committee under paragraph (e) of this section.
(g) If the designated Department official fails to provide
the agency with the materials described in paragraph (c)(2) of
this section within the 45-day time frame specified in that
section, the agency may request that the Advisory Committee defer
action on its application until the next meeting of the Advisory
Committee.
(h) At least 30 days before the Advisory Committee meeting
the Secretary publishes a notice of the meeting in the FEDERAL
REGISTER and invites interested parties, including those who
submitted third-party comments concerning an agency's compliance
with the requirements for recognition, to make oral presentations
before the Advisory Committee.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.12 Review by the National Advisory Committee on Institu-
tional Quality and Integrity.

(a)(1) The Advisory Committee considers an accrediting
agency's application at a public meeting and invites the
designated Department official, the agency, and other interested
parties to make oral presentations at the meeting.
(2) The designated Department official arranges for a tran-
script to be made of the Advisory Committee meeting.
(b) At the conclusion of the meeting, the Advisory
Committee recommends that the Secretary approve or deny
recognition of the accrediting agency or defer a decision on the
agency's application.
(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(2) of this
section, the Advisory Committee recommends recognition of an
agency if the agency complies with each of the requirements of
this part.
(2) The Advisory Committee may recommend recognition
despite finding that the agency failed to comply with each of the
requirements of this part if the Advisory Committee provides the
Secretary with a detailed explanation as to why it believes the
agency's failure to comply with the particular requirement(s)
does not require denial or deferral.
(3) If the Advisory Committee recommends recognition, the
Advisory Committee also recommends the scope of recognition for
the agency and a recognition period.
(4) If the Advisory Committee recommends denial of recogni-
tion, the Advisory Committee specifies the reasons for the recom-
mendation and the requirements of this part that the agency
failed to meet.
(5) If the Advisory Committee recommends deferral of a
decision on the agency's application, the Advisory Committee
specifies the reasons for the recommendation, the requirements of
this part that it believes the agency has not met, and a
recommended deferral period.
(d) After the meeting, the Advisory Committee forwards its
written recommendations concerning recognition to the Secretary.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b, 1145)

602.13 Review and decision by the Secretary.

(a) The Secretary determines whether to grant national
recognition to an applicant accrediting agency based on the
Advisory Committee's recommendation and the full record of the
agency's application, including all oral and written
presentations to the Advisory Committee by the agency, the
designated Department official, and interested third parties.
(b)(1) Before making a final decision, the Secretary
affords both the designated Department official and the
accrediting agency an opportunity to contest, in writing, the
Advisory Committee's recommendation. If either the agency or the
designated Department official wishes to contest the
recommendation, that party shall notify the Secretary and the
other party no later than 10 days after the Advisory Committee
meeting.
(2) If the party contesting the Advisory Committee's
recommendation wishes to make a written submission to the
Secretary, the Secretary must receive that submission no later
than 30 days after the Advisory Committee meeting. However, the
contesting party may not submit any evidence to the Secretary
that it did not submit to the Advisory Committee. The contesting
party shall simultaneously provide a copy of its submission to
the other party.
(3) If the noncontesting party wishes to respond in writing
to the Secretary, the Secretary must receive that submission no
later than 30 days after the noncontesting party receives the
contesting party's submission. However, the noncontesting party
may not submit any evidence to the Secretary that it did not
submit to the Advisory Committee. The noncontesting party shall
simultaneously provide a copy of its response to the contesting
party.
(4) If the Advisory Committee's recommendation is
contested, the Secretary renders a final decision after taking
into account the two parties' timely written submissions, if any.
(c) The Secretary approves the accrediting agency for
national recognition if the Secretary determines that the agency
satisfies each of the requirements contained in this part.
(d) The Secretary approves the accrediting agency for
national recognition even if the agency does not satisfy each of
the requirements contained in this part if the Secretary
determines that the agency's effectiveness is not impaired by the
noncompliance.
(e) If the Secretary approves the accrediting agency for
national recognition, the Secretary defines--
(1) The scope of the agency's recognition for Federal
purposes, which shall include the--
(i) Geographic area;
(ii) Degrees and certificates awarded;
(iii) Types of institutions, programs, or both that the
agency may accredit; and
(iv) Preaccreditation status(es), if any, that the
Secretary approves for recognition; and
(2) The recognition period, which does not exceed five
years.
(f) If the Secretary denies recognition to the accrediting
agency or grants recognition for a scope narrower than that re-
quested by the agency, the Secretary indicates in writing the
reasons for that decision.
(g) If the Secretary defers a decision on the accrediting
agency's application, the Secretary--
(1) Indicates in writing the reasons for the deferral and
the deferral period; and
(2) Automatically extends any previously granted
recognition period until the Secretary reaches a decision on the
renewal application.
(h) If the Secretary does not reach a final decision on an
accrediting agency's application for renewal of recognition
before the expiration of the agency's recognition period, the
Secretary automatically extends the previously granted
recognition period until the Secretary reaches a decision on the
renewal application.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.14 Limitation, suspension, or termination of recognition.

(a)(1) The Secretary may limit, suspend, or terminate the
recognition of an accrediting agency before completion of its
previously granted recognition period if the Secretary
determines, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, that the
agency fails or has failed to satisfy any of the requirements of
this part.
(2)(i) If the agency requests a hearing, the hearing is
conducted by the Advisory Committee or by a subcommittee of five
members of the Advisory Committee, selected by the Secretary, if
the Secretary determines that a more timely hearing is necessary
than can be accommodated by the schedule of the full Advisory
Committee.
(ii) If the Secretary selects a subcommittee of the
Advisory Committee instead of the full Advisory Committee, the
agency may challenge the membership of the subcommittee on
grounds of conflict of interest on the part of one or more of the
members of the subcommittee, and the Secretary replaces the
member(s) if the agency's challenge is successful.
(iii) The designated Department official arranges for a
transcript to be made of the hearing.
(b) The designated Department official begins a limitation,
suspension, or termination proceeding against an accrediting
agency by sending the agency a notice that--
(1) Informs the agency of the Secretary's intent to limit,
suspend, or terminate its recognition;
(2) Identifies the alleged violations of the governing
regulations that constitute the basis for the action;
(3) Describes the limits to be imposed if the Secretary
seeks to limit the accrediting agency;
(4) Specifies the effective date of the limitation,
suspension, or termination; and
(5) Informs the agency that it may--
(i) Submit to the designated Department official a written
response to the notice no later than 30 days after it receives
the notice; and
(ii) Request a hearing, which shall take place in
Washington, D.C., before the Advisory Committee or subcommittee
if the agency submits a hearing request to the designated
Department official no later than 30 days after it receives the
notice.
(c)(1) As part of its response to the limitation,
suspension, or termination notice or its hearing request, if any,
the accrediting agency shall identify the issues and facts in
dispute and its position with regard to those issues and facts.
(2) After receipt of the agency's response and hearing
request, if any, the designated Department official--
(i) Transmits the limitation, suspension, or termination
notice and the agency's response, if any, to that notice to the
Advisory Committee or subcommittee; and
(ii) Establishes the date and time of any hearing before
the Advisory Committee or subcommittee.
(d)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (d)(2) of this
section, if a hearing is held, the Advisory Committee or
subcommittee shall allow the designated Department official, the
accrediting agency, and any interested party to make an oral or
written presentation. That presentation may include the
introduction of written and oral evidence.
(2) If the designated Department official and the
accrediting agency each agree, the Advisory Committee or
subcommittee review shall be based solely on the written
materials submitted to it under paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this
section.
(e)(1) After the Advisory Committee or subcommittee reviews
the presentations, it shall issue an opinion in which it--
(i) Makes findings of fact based upon the evidence
presented;
(ii) Recommends whether a limitation, suspension, or
termination of the agency's recognition is warranted; and
(iii) Provides the reasons for that recommendation.
(2) The Advisory Committee or subcommittee shall--
(i) Transmit its written opinion to the Secretary; and
(ii) Provide a copy of its opinion to the designated
Department official and the accrediting agency.
(f)(1) Unless the Advisory Committee's or subcommittee's
recommendation is appealed, after receiving the recommendation,
the Secretary issues a decision on whether to limit, suspend, or
terminate the agency's recognition, based upon the Advisory
Committee's or subcommittee's recommendation and the full record
before the Advisory Committee or subcommittee.
(2) Either the accrediting agency or the designated
Department official may appeal the Advisory Committee's or
subcommittee's recommendation by filing a notice of appeal with
the Secretary within 10 days of receipt of the Advisory
Committee's or subcommittee's recommendation. If either party
files an appeal with the Secretary, that party shall simul-
taneously provide a copy of the notice of appeal to the other
party.
(3) The party appealing the Advisory Committee's or subcom-
mittee's recommendation has 30 days after its receipt of the
recommendation to make a written submission to the Secretary
challenging the recommendation. However, the appealing party may
not submit any evidence that was not submitted to the Advisory
Committee or subcommittee. The appealing party shall
simultaneously provide a copy of the submission to the other
party.
(4) The nonappealing party has 30 days from the date it re-
ceives the appealing party's submission to file a written
response to the Secretary regarding the submissions of the
appealing party and shall simultaneously provide the appealing
party with a copy of its response. The nonappealing party may
not submit any evidence that was not submitted to the Advisory
Committee or subcommittee.
(5) If the Advisory Committee's or subcommittee's recommen-
dation is appealed, the Secretary renders a final decision after
taking into account that recommendation and the parties' written
submissions on appeal.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.15 Appeals procedures.

An accrediting agency may appeal the Secretary's final
decision under this part regarding the agency's recognition to
the Federal courts as a final decision in accordance with
applicable Federal law.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.16 Publication of list of recognized agencies.

(a) The Secretary periodically publishes in the FEDERAL
REGISTER a list of recognized accrediting agencies and each
agency's scope of recognition.
(b) If the Secretary denies recognition to a previously
recognized accrediting agency, or limits, suspends, or terminates
its recognition during a previously granted recognition period,
the Secretary publishes a notice of that action in the FEDERAL
REGISTER and makes available to the public, upon request, the
Secretary's determination.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)





Subpart C - Criteria for Secretarial Recognition

602.20 Geographic scope of accrediting activities.

To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally recognized
accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must demonstrate to the
Secretary that the geographical scope of its accrediting
activities covers--
(a) A State, if the agency is a component of a State
government;
(b) A region of the United States that includes at least
three States that are contiguous or in close geographical
proximity to one another; or
(c) The United States.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.21 Administrative and fiscal responsibility.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that it has the administrative and
fiscal capability to carry out its accreditation activities in
light of its requested scope of recognition.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency
meets the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if it
has, and will likely continue to have--
(1) Adequate administrative staff to--
(i) Carry out its accrediting responsibilities effectively;
and
(ii) Manage its finances effectively;
(2) Competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by
experience and training, responsible for on-site evaluation,
policy-making, and decision-making regarding accreditation and
preaccreditation status;
(3) Representation on its evaluation, policy, and decision-making bodies
of--
(i) For an institutional accrediting agency, both academic
and administrative personnel; and
(ii) For a programmatic accrediting agency, both educators
and practitioners;
(4) Representation of the public on all decision-making
bodies;
(5) Clear and effective controls against conflicts of
interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest by the
agency's board members, commissioners, evaluation team members,
consultants, administrative staff, and other agency
representatives;
(6) Adequate financial resources to carry out its accredit-
ing responsibilities, taking into account the funds required to
conduct the range of accrediting activities specified in the
requested scope of recognition and the income necessary to meet
the anticipated costs of its activities in the future; and
(7) Complete and accurate records of--
(i) Its last two full accreditation or preaccreditation
reviews of each institution or program, including on-site
evaluation team reports, institution or program responses to on-
site reports, periodic review reports, any reports of special
reviews conducted by the agency between regular reviews, and the
institution's or program's most recent self-study report; and
(ii) All preaccreditation and accreditation decisions,
including all adverse actions.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.22 Accreditation experience.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that it has adequate experience in
accrediting institutions, programs, or both.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency
satisfies the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if it has--
(1) Granted accreditation or preaccreditation status to
institutions or programs in the geographical area for which it
seeks recognition;
(2) Conducted accreditation activities covering the range
of the specific degrees, certificates, and programs for which it
seeks recognition, including--
(i) Granting accreditation or preaccreditation status; and
(ii) Providing technical assistance related to
accreditation to institutions, programs, or both; and
(3) Established policies, evaluative criteria, and
procedures, and made evaluative decisions, that are accepted
throughout the United States by--
(i) Educators and educational institutions; and
(ii) Licensing bodies, practitioners, and employers in the
professional or vocational fields for which the educational
institutions or programs within the agency's jurisdiction prepare
their students.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.23 Application of standards.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that it consistently applies and
enforces written standards that ensure that the education or
training offered by an institution or program is of sufficient
quality to achieve, for the duration of any accreditation period
granted by the agency, the stated objective for which it is
offered.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency
meets the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if--
(1) The agency's written standards and procedures for
accreditation and preaccreditation, if that latter status is
offered, comply with the requirements of this part;
(2) The agency's preaccreditation standards, if offered,
are appropriately related to the agency's accreditation
standards, with a limit on preaccreditation status of no more
than five years for any institution or program;
(3) The agency's organizations, functions, and procedures
include effective controls against the inconsistent application
of its criteria and standards;
(4) The agency bases its decisions regarding accreditation
or preaccreditation on its published criteria; and
(5) The agency maintains a systematic program of review de-
signed to ensure that its criteria and standards are valid and
reliable indicators of the quality of the education or training
provided by the institutions or programs it accredits and are
relevant to the education or training needs of affected students.
(6) The agency demonstrates to the Secretary that, as a
result of its program of review under paragraph (b)(5) of this
section, each of its standards provides--
(i) A valid measure of the aspects of educational quality
it is intended to measure; and
(ii) A consistent basis for determining the educational
quality of different institutions and programs.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.24 Accreditation processes.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that it has effective mechanisms for
evaluating compliance with its standards and that those
mechanisms cover the full range of an institution's or program's
offerings, including those offerings conducted at branch campuses
and additional locations.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency
meets the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if--
(1) In determining whether to grant initial or renewed ac-
creditation, the accrediting agency evaluates whether an institu-
tion or program--
(i) Maintains clearly specified educational objectives
consistent with its mission and appropriate in light of the
degrees or certificates it awards;
(ii) Is successful in achieving its stated objectives;
(iii) Maintains degree and certificate requirements that at
least conform to commonly accepted standards; and
(iv) Complies with the agency's criteria;
(2) In reaching its determination to grant initial or
renewed accreditation, the accrediting agency--
(i) Requires an in-depth self-study by each institution or
program, in accordance with guidance provided by the agency, that
includes the assessment of educational quality and the
institution's or program's continuing efforts to improve
educational quality;
(ii) Conducts at least one on-site review of the
institution or program at which the agency obtains sufficient
information to enable it to determine if the institution or
program complies with the agency's criteria;
(iii) Conducts its own analyses and evaluations of the
self-study and supporting documentation furnished by the
institution or program, and any other appropriate information
from other sources, to determine whether the institution or
program complies with the agency's standards; and
(iv) Provides to the institution or program a detailed
written report on its review assessing--
(A) The institution's or program's compliance with the
agency's standards, including areas needing improvement; and
(B) The institution's or program's performance with respect
to student achievement;
(3) In addition to the on-site visit described in paragraph
(b)(2)(ii) of this section, an institutional accrediting agency
whose accreditation enables the institutions it accredits to seek
eligibility to participate in Title IV, HEA programs conducts--
during the interval between the agency's award of accreditation
or preaccreditation to the institution or program and the expira-
tion of the accreditation or preaccreditation period--at least
one unannounced on-site inspection at each institution that
provides vocational education or training for the purpose of
determining whether the institution has the personnel,
facilities, and resources it claimed to have either during its
previous on-site review or in subsequent reports to the
accrediting agency;
(4) The accrediting agency--
(i) Monitors institutions or programs throughout the
accreditation or preaccreditation period to ensure continuing
compliance with the agency's standards or criteria; and
(ii) Conducts special evaluations, site visits, or both, as
necessary; and
(5) The accrediting agency regularly reevaluates
institutions or programs that have been granted accreditation or
preaccreditation.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.25 Substantive change

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an institutional accrediting
agency must demonstrate to the Secretary that it maintains
adequate substantive change policies that ensure that any
substantive change to the educational mission or program(s) of an
institution after the agency has granted accreditation or
preaccreditation to the institution does not adversely affect the
capacity of the institution to continue to meet the agency's
standards.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency
meets the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section if--
(1) The agency requires prior approval of the substantive
change by the agency before the change is included in the
agency's previous grant of accreditation or preaccreditation to
the institution; and
(2) The agency's definition of substantive change includes,
but is not limited to, the following types of change:
(i) Any change in the established mission or objectives of
the institution;
(ii) Any change in the legal status or form of control of
the institution;
(iii) The addition of courses or programs that represent a
significant departure, in terms of either in the content or
method of delivery, from those that were offered when the agency
most recently evaluated the institution;
(iv) The addition of courses or programs at a degree or
credential level above that included in the institution's current
accreditation or preaccreditation;
(v) A change from clock hours to credit hours or vice
versa; and
(vi) A substantial increase in--
(A) The number of clock or credit hours awarded for
successful completion of a program; or
(B) The length of a program.
(c) The agency has discretion to determine the procedures
it will use to grant prior approval of the substantive change,
which may, but need not, require an on-site evaluation before
approval is granted.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.26 Required accreditation standards.

(a)(1) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that its accreditation or
preaccreditation standards, or both, are sufficiently rigorous to
ensure that the agency is a reliable authority as to the quality
of the education or training provided by the institutions or
programs it accredits.
(2) For a programmatic accrediting agency that does not
serve as an institutional accrediting agency for any of the
programs it accredits, the standards must address the areas
contained in paragraph (b) of this section in terms of the type
and level of the program rather than in terms of the institution.
(3) If none of the institutions an agency accredits
participates in any Title IV, HEA program, or if the agency only
accredits programs within institutions accredited by an
institutional accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary, the
accrediting agency is not required to have the standards
described in paragraphs (b)(7), (b)(8), (b)(10), and (b)(12) of
this section.
(b) In order to assure that an accrediting agency is a
reliable authority as to the quality of the education or training
provided by an institution or program it accredits, the agency
must have standards that effectively address the quality of an
institution or program in the following areas:
(1) Curricula.
(2) Faculty.
(3) Facilities, equipment, and supplies.
(4) Fiscal and administrative capacity as appropriate to
the specified scale of operations.
(5) Student support services.
(6) Recruiting and admissions practices, academic
calendars, catalogs, publications, grading, and advertising.
(7) Program length and tuition and fees in relation to the
subject matters taught and the objectives of the degrees or
credentials offered.
(8) Measures of program length in clock hours or credit
hours.
(9) Success with respect to student achievement in relation
to mission, including, as appropriate, consideration of course
completion, State licensing examination, and job placement rates.
(10) Default rates in the student loan programs under Title
IV of the Act, based on the most recent data provided by the
Secretary.
(11) Record of student complaints received by, or available
to, the agency.
(12) Compliance with the institution's program
responsibilities under Title IV of the Act, including any results
of financial or compliance audits, program reviews, and such
other information as the Secretary may provide to the agency.
(c)(1) An accrediting agency shall take appropriate action
if its review of an institution or program under any standard
indicates that the institution or program is not in compliance
with that standard.
(2) If the agency believes that the institution or program
is not in compliance with the standards, the agency shall--
(i) Take prompt adverse action against the institution or
program; or
(ii) Require the institution or program to take appropriate
action to bring itself into compliance with the agency's
standards within a time frame specified by the agency.
(3) The accrediting agency has sole discretion to determine
the course of action it chooses under paragraph (c)(2) of this
section and, if it selects the option specified in paragraph
(c)(2)(ii) of this section, the time frame for the institution or
program to bring itself into compliance with agency standards.
However, except as indicated in paragraph (c)(4) of this section,
the specified period may not exceed--
(i) Twelve months, if the program is less than one year in
length;
(ii) Eighteen months, if the program is at least one year,
but less than two years, in length; or
(iii) Two years, if the program is at least two years in
length.
(4) If the institution or program does not bring itself
into compliance within the specified period, the agency must take
adverse action unless the agency extends the period for achieving
compliance for good cause.
(d) An accrediting agency shall have a reasonable basis for
determining that the information it relies on for making the
assessments described in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section
is accurate.
(e) An accrediting agency that has established and applies
the standards in paragraph (b) of this section may establish any
additional accreditation standards as it deems appropriate.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1091, 1099b)

602.27 Additional required operating procedures.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that it satisfies the procedural
requirements contained in other provisions of this part and the
additional requirements contained in paragraphs (b) through (h)
of this section.
(b) If the accrediting agency accredits institutions and
that accreditation enables those institutions to seek eligibility
to participate in Title IV, HEA programs--
(1) The agency requires the institution to--
(i) Notify the agency if the institution plans to establish
a branch campus; and
(ii) Submit a business plan described in paragraph (b)(2)
of this section for the branch campus;
(2) The business plan that an institution submits under
paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section must contain a description
of--
(i) The educational program to be offered at the branch
campus;
(ii) The projected revenues and expenditures and cash flow
at the branch campus; and
(iii) The operation, management, and physical resources at
the branch campus;
(3) The agency extends accreditation to the branch campus
only after evaluating the business plan and taking other
necessary actions to permit the agency to determine that the
branch campus has sufficient educational, financial, operational,
management, and physical resources to satisfy the accrediting
agency's standards for accreditation;
(4) The agency undertakes a site visit of the branch campus
as soon as practicable, but no later than six months after the
establishment of that branch campus;
(5) The agency undertakes a site visit of an institution
that has undergone a change of ownership that resulted in a
change of control as soon as practicable, but no later than six
months after the change of ownership; and
(6) The agency requires any institution it accredits that
enters into a teach-out agreement with another institution to
submit that teach-out agreement to the agency for approval and
approves the teach-out agreement if the agreement--
(i) Is consistent with applicable standards and
regulations; and
(ii) Provides for the equitable treatment of students by
ensuring that--
(A) Students are provided, without additional charge, all
of the instruction promised by the closed institution prior to
its closure but not provided to the students because of the
closure; and
(B) The teach-out institution is geographically proximate to
the closed institution and can demonstrate compatibility of its
program structure and scheduling to that of the closed
institution.
(c) The accrediting agency maintains and makes publicly
available written materials describing--
(1) Each type of accreditation and preaccreditation granted
by the agency;
(2) Its procedures for applying for accreditation or
preaccreditation;
(3) The criteria and procedures used by the agency for
determining whether to grant, reaffirm, reinstate, deny,
restrict, revoke, or take any other action related to each type
of accreditation and preaccreditation that the agency grants;
(4) The names, academic and professional qualifications,
and relevant employment and organizational affiliations of the
members of the agency's policy and decision-making bodies as well
as the agency's principal administrative staff; and
(5) The institutions or programs that the agency currently
accredits or preaccredits and the date when the agency will
review or reconsider the accreditation or preaccreditation of
each institution or program.
(d) In accordance with agency policy, the accrediting
agency publishes the year when an institution or program subject
to its jurisdiction is being considered for accreditation or
preaccreditation and provides an opportunity for third-party
comment, either in writing or at a public hearing, at the
agency's discretion, concerning the institution's or program's
qualifications for accreditation or preaccreditation.
(e) The accrediting agency provides advance public notice
of proposed new or revised criteria, giving interested parties
adequate opportunity to comment on these proposals prior to their
adoption.
(f) The accrediting agency--
(1) Reviews any complaint it receives against an accredited
institution or program, or the agency itself, that is related to
the agency's standards, criteria, or procedures; and
(2) Resolves the complaint in a timely, fair, and equitable
manner.
(g) The accrediting agency ensures that, if an institution
or program elects to make a public disclosure of its
accreditation or preaccreditation status granted by the agency,
the institution or program discloses that status accurately,
including the specific academic or instructional programs covered
by that status and the name, address, and telephone number of the
accrediting agency.
(h) The accrediting agency provides for the public
correction of incorrect or misleading information released by an
accredited or preaccredited institution or program about--
(1) The accreditation status of the institution or program;
(2) The contents of reports of site team visitors; and
(3) The agency's accrediting actions with respect to the
institution or program.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.28 Due process for institutions and programs.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that the procedures it uses
throughout the accrediting process satisfy due process
requirements.
(b) The Secretary considers that an accrediting agency's
procedures satisfy due process requirements if--
(1) The agency sets forth in writing its procedures govern-
ing its accreditation or preaccreditation processes;
(2) The agency's procedures afford an institution or
program a reasonable period of time to comply with agency
requests for information and documents;
(3) The agency notifies the institution or program in
writing of any adverse accrediting action;
(4) The agency's notice details the basis for any adverse
accrediting action;
(5) The agency permits the institution or program the
opportunity to appeal an adverse accrediting action, and the
right to representation by counsel during an appeal, except that
the agency, at its sole discretion, may limit the appeal to a
written appeal; and
(6) The agency notifies the appellant in writing of the
result of the appeal and the basis for that result.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.29 Notification of accrediting agency decisions.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, except as provided in paragraph
(b) of this section, an accrediting agency must demonstrate to
the Secretary that its written policies, procedures, and
practices require it to notify the Secretary, the appropriate
State postsecondary review entity, the appropriate accrediting
agencies, and the public of the following types of decisions, no
later than 30 days after a decision is made:
(1) A decision by the agency to award initial accreditation
or preaccreditation to an institution or program.
(2) A final decision by the agency to--
(i) Deny, withdraw, suspend, or terminate the accreditation
or preaccreditation of an institution or program; or
(ii) Take other adverse action against an institution or
program.
(3) A decision by the agency to place an institution or
program on probation.
(4) A decision by an accredited institution or program to
withdraw voluntarily from accreditation or formal
preaccreditation status.
(5) A decision by an accredited institution or program to
let its accreditation or preaccreditation lapse.
(b) If the agency's final decision is to deny, withdraw,
suspend, or terminate the accreditation or preaccreditation of an
institution or program or to take other adverse action against an
institution or program, the agency must notify the Secretary of
that decision at the same time it notifies the institution or
program.
(c) No later than 60 days after a final decision, the
accrediting agency makes available to the Secretary, the
appropriate State postsecondary review entity, and the public
upon request, a brief statement summarizing the reasons for the
agency's determination to deny, withdraw, suspend, or terminate
the accreditation or preaccreditation of an institution or
program, and the comments, if any, that the affected institution
or program may wish to make with regard to that decision.
(d)(1) For purposes of the decisions described in paragraph
(a)(4) of this section, the date of the decision is the date on
which the accrediting agency receives notification by the
institution or program that it is voluntarily withdrawing from
accreditation or preaccreditation.
(2) For purposes of the decisions described in paragraph
(a)(5) of this section, the date of the decision is the date on
which accreditation or preaccreditation lapses.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)

602.30 Regard for decisions of States and other accrediting
agencies.

(a) To be listed by the Secretary as a nationally
recognized accrediting agency, an accrediting agency must
demonstrate to the Secretary that--
(1) If the accrediting agency accredits institutions--
(i) The agency accredits only those institutions that are
legally authorized under applicable State law to provide a
program of education beyond the secondary level;
(ii) The agency does not renew, under the conditions
described in paragraph (b) of this section, the accreditation or
preaccreditation of an institution during a period in which the
institution--
(A) Is the subject of an interim action by a recognized
institutional accrediting agency potentially leading to the
suspension, revocation, or termination of accreditation or
preaccreditation;
(B) Is the subject of an interim action by a State agency
potentially leading to the suspension, revocation, or termination
of the institution's legal authority to provide postsecondary
education;
(C) Has been notified of a threatened loss of
accreditation, and the due process procedures required by the
action have not been completed; or
(D) Has been notified of a threatened suspension,
revocation, or termination by the State of the institution's
legal authority to provide postsecondary education, and the due
process procedures required by the action have not been
completed;
(iii) In considering whether to grant initial accreditation
or preaccreditation to an institution, the agency takes into
account actions by--
(A) Recognized institutional accrediting agencies that have
denied accreditation or preaccreditation to the institution,
placed the institution on public probationary status, or revoked
the accreditation or preaccreditation of the institution; and
(B) A State agency that has suspended, revoked, or
terminated the institution's legal authority to provide post-
secondary education;
(iv) If the agency grants accreditation or preaccreditation
to an institution notwithstanding the actions described in
paragraph (a)(1)(ii) or (a)(1)(iii) of this section, the agency
provides the Secretary a thorough explanation, consistent with
its accreditation standards, why the previous action by a
recognized institutional accrediting agency or the State does not
preclude the agency's grant of accreditation or preaccreditation;
and
(v) If a recognized institutional accrediting agency takes
an adverse action with respect to a dually-accredited institution
or places the institution on public probationary status, or if a
recognized programmatic accrediting agency takes an adverse
action for reasons associated with the overall institution rather
than the specific program against a program offered by an
institution or places the program on public probation, the agency
promptly reviews its accreditation or preaccreditation of the
institution to determine if it should also take adverse action
against the institution.
(2) If the accrediting agency accredits programs--
(i) The agency does not renew, under the conditions
described in paragraph (b) of this section, the accreditation or
preaccreditation status of a program during any period in which
the institution offering the program--
(A) Is the subject of an interim action by a recognized
institutional accrediting agency potentially leading to the
suspension, revocation, or termination of accreditation or
preaccreditation;
(B) Is the subject of an interim action by a State agency
potentially leading to the suspension, revocation, or termination
of the institution's legal authority to provide postsecondary
education;
(C) Has been notified of a threatened loss of accredita-
tion, and the due process procedures required by the action have
not been completed;
(D) Has been notified of a threatened suspension,
revocation, or termination by the State of the institution's
legal authority to provide postsecondary education, and the due
process procedures required by the action have not been
completed;
(ii) In considering whether to grant initial accreditation
or preaccreditation to a program, the agency takes into account
actions by--
(A) Recognized institutional accrediting agencies that have
denied accreditation or preaccreditation to the institution
offering the program, placed the institution on public
probationary status, or revoked the accreditation or
preaccreditation of the institution; and
(B) A State agency that has suspended, revoked, or
terminated the institution's legal authority to provide
postsecondary education;
(iii) If the agency grants accreditation or
preaccreditation to a program notwithstanding the actions
described in paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section, the agency
provides to the Secretary a thorough explanation, consistent with
its accreditation standards, why the previous action by a
recognized institutional accrediting agency or the State does not
preclude the agency's grant of accreditation or preaccreditation;
and
(iv) If a recognized institutional accrediting agency takes
adverse action with respect to the institution offering the
program or places the institution on public probationary status,
the agency promptly reviews its accreditation or preaccreditation
of the program to determine if it should take adverse action
against the program.
(3) The agency routinely shares with other appropriate
recognized accrediting agencies and State agencies information
about the accreditation or preaccreditation status of an
institution or program and any adverse actions it has taken
against an accredited or preaccredited institution or program.
(b) An accrediting agency is subject to the requirements
contained in paragraph (a) of this section if the accrediting
agency knew, or should have known, of the actions being taken by
another recognized accrediting agency or State agency.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b)