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PublicationDate: 9/1/98


Part 602 -- Secretary's Procedures and Criteria for 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 agen-cies.

Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1099b, unless otherwise noted.


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, suspen-sion, or termination of accreditation or preaccreditation, or any comparable accrediting action an agency may take against an institu-tion 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 institu-tion or program is progressing towards accreditation and is likely to attain accreditation before the expiration of that limited period of time.

Pro-gram 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 pro-grams that prepare stu-dents 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 sharehold-er of, or consultant to, an institution or program that either is accredited by the agency or has applied for accredita-tion; (2) a member of any trade association or member-ship organi-zation related to, affil-iated with, or associat-ed 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.

(Authori-ty: 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" re-quirements 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 represen-tative 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 consul-tation 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 membership 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 re



(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 recognition;
(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 includes--
(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 informa-tion directly related to institutions or programs accredited or preaccredited by the agency, relative to their compliance with the accrediting agency's standards, 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 Advisory Committee with the accrediting agency's application and supporting 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 Institutional 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 transcript to be made of the Adviso-ry 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 recom-mends the scope of recognition for the agency and a recognition period.
(4) If the Advisory Committee recommends denial of recognition, the Advisory Committee speci-fies the reasons for the recommen-dation and the re-quirements 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 recog-nition 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 accred-it; 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 requested 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 hear-ing.
(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 accredit-ing 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 simultaneously provide a copy of the notice of appeal to the other party.
(3) The party appealing the Advisory Committee's or subcommittee'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 receives 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 recommendation 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 recogni-tion 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 accredi-tation 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 accrediting 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 accred-itation 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 designed 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 accreditation, the accrediting agency evaluates whether an institution 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 deter-mine 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 assess-ing--
(A) The institution's or program's compliance with the agen-cy'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 expiration 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 peri-od 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 appro-priate 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 compli-ance with agency standards. However, except as indicat-ed in para-graph (c)(4) of this section, the speci-fied 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 accred-itation 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 governing 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 poten-tially leading to the suspension, revocation, or termina-tion 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 author-ity to provide postsecondary 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 poten-tially leading to the suspension, revocation, or termina-tion 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 complete;
(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 insti-tution'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)