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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of November 18, 2019

Title 34Subtitle BChapter VIPart 602Subpart C → Subject Group


Title 34: Education
PART 602—THE SECRETARY'S RECOGNITION OF ACCREDITING AGENCIES
Subpart C—The Recognition Process


Application and Review by Department Staff

§602.30   Activities covered by recognition procedures.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 58926, Nov. 1, 2019.

Recognition proceedings are administrative actions taken on any of the following matters:

(a) Applications for initial or continued recognition submitted under §602.31(a).

(b) Applications for an expansion of scope submitted under §602.31(b).

(c) Compliance reports submitted under §602.31(c).

(d) Reviews of agencies that have expanded their scope of recognition by notice, following receipt by the Department of information of an increase in headcount enrollment described in §602.19(e).

(e) Staff analyses identifying areas of non-compliance based on a review conducted under §602.33.

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

§602.31   Agency submissions to the Department.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 58926, Nov. 1, 2019.

(a) Applications for recognition or renewal of recognition. An accrediting agency seeking initial or continued recognition must submit a written application to the Secretary. Each accrediting agency must submit an application for continued recognition at least once every five years, or within a shorter time period specified in the final recognition decision. The application must consist of—

(1) A statement of the agency's requested scope of recognition;

(2) Evidence, including documentation, that the agency complies with the criteria for recognition listed in subpart B of this part and effectively applies those criteria; and

(3) Evidence, including documentation, of how an agency that includes or seeks to include distance education or correspondence education in its scope of recognition applies its standards in evaluating programs and institutions it accredits that offer distance education or correspondence education.

(b) Applications for expansions of scope. An agency seeking an expansion of scope by application must submit a written application to the Secretary. The application must—

(1) Specify the scope requested;

(2) Include documentation of experience in accordance with §602.12(b); and

(3) Provide copies of any relevant standards, policies, or procedures developed and applied by the agency and documentation of the application of these standards, policies, or procedures.

(c) Compliance reports. If an agency is required to submit a compliance report, it must do so within 30 days following the end of the period for achieving compliance as specified in the decision of the senior Department official or Secretary, as applicable.

(d) Review following an increase in headcount enrollment. If an agency that has notified the Secretary in writing of its change in scope to include distance education or correspondence education in accordance with §602.27(a)(5) reports an increase in headcount enrollment in accordance with §602.19(e) for an institution it accredits, or if the Department notifies the agency of such an increase at one of the agency's accredited institutions, the agency must, within 45 days of reporting the increase or receiving notice of the increase from the Department, as applicable, submit a report explaining—

(1) How the agency evaluates the capacity of the institutions or programs it accredits to accommodate significant growth in enrollment and to maintain educational quality;

(2) The specific circumstances regarding the growth at the institution(s) or programs(s) that triggered the review and the results of any evaluation conducted by the agency; and

(3) Any other information that the agency deems appropriate to demonstrate the effective application of the criteria for recognition or that the Department may require.

(e) Consent to sharing of information. By submitting an application for recognition, the agency authorizes Department staff throughout the application process and during any period of recognition—

(1) To observe its site visits to one or more of the institutions or programs it accredits or preaccredits, on an announced or unannounced basis;

(2) To visit locations where agency activities such as training, review and evaluation panel meetings, and decision meetings take place, on an announced or unannounced basis;

(3) To obtain copies of all documents the staff deems necessary to complete its review of the agency; and

(4) To gain access to agency records, personnel, and facilities.

(f) Public availability of agency records obtained by the Department. (1) The Secretary's processing and decision making on requests for public disclosure of agency materials reviewed under this part are governed by the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552; the Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1905; the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, 5 U.S.C 552a; the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. Appdx. 1; and all other applicable laws. In recognition proceedings, agencies may—

(i) Redact information that would identify individuals or institutions that is not essential to the Department's review of the agency;

(ii) Make a good faith effort to designate all business information within agency submissions that the agency believes would be exempt from disclosure under exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4). A blanket designation of all information contained within a submission, or of a category of documents, as meeting this exemption will not be considered a good faith effort and will be disregarded;

(iii) Identify any other material the agency believes would be exempt from public disclosure under FOIA, the factual basis for the request, and any legal basis the agency has identified for withholding the document from disclosure; and

(iv) Ensure documents submitted are only those required for Department review or as requested by Department officials.

(2) The Secretary processes FOIA requests in accordance with 34 CFR part 5 and makes all documents provided to the Advisory Committee available to the public.

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

§602.32   Procedures for Department review of applications for recognition or for change in scope, compliance reports, and increases in enrollment.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 58927, Nov. 1, 2019.

(a) After receipt of an agency's application for initial or continued recognition, or change in scope, or an agency's compliance report, or an agency's report submitted under §602.31(d), Department staff publishes a notice of the agency's application or report in the Federal Register inviting the public to comment on the agency's compliance with the criteria for recognition and establishing a deadline for receipt of public comment.

(b) The Department staff analyzes the agency's application for initial or renewal of recognition, compliance report, or report submitted under §602.31(d) to determine whether the agency satisfies the criteria for recognition, taking into account all available relevant information concerning the compliance of the agency with those criteria and in the agency's effectiveness in applying the criteria. The analysis of an application for recognition and, as appropriate, of a compliance report, or of a report required under §602.31(d), includes—

(1) Observations from site visit(s), on an announced or unannounced basis, to the agency or to a location where agency activities such as training, review and evaluation panel meetings, and decision meetings take place and to one or more of the institutions or programs it accredits or preaccredits;

(2) Review of the public comments and other third-party information the Department staff receives by the established deadline, and the agency's responses to the third-party comments, as appropriate, as well as any other information Department staff assembles for purposes of evaluating the agency under this part; and

(3) Review of complaints or legal actions involving the agency.

(c) The Department staff analyzes the materials submitted in support of an application for expansion of scope to ensure that the agency has the requisite experience, policies that comply with subpart B of this part, capacity, and performance record to support the request.

(d) Department staff's evaluation of an agency may also include a review of information directly related to institutions or programs accredited or preaccredited by the agency relative to their compliance with the agency's standards, the effectiveness of the standards, and the agency's application of those standards.

(e) If, at any point in its evaluation of an agency seeking initial recognition, Department staff determines that the agency fails to demonstrate compliance with the basic eligibility requirements in §§602.10 through 602.13, the staff—

(1) Returns the agency's application and provides the agency with an explanation of the deficiencies that caused staff to take that action; and

(2) Recommends that the agency withdraw its application and reapply when the agency can demonstrate compliance.

(f) Except with respect to an application that has been returned or is withdrawn under paragraph (e) of this section, when Department staff completes its evaluation of the agency, the staff—

(1) Prepares a written draft analysis of the agency;

(2) Sends the draft analysis including any identified areas of non-compliance and a proposed recognition recommendation, and all supporting documentation, including all third-party comments the Department received by the established deadline, to the agency;

(3) Invites the agency to provide a written response to the draft analysis and proposed recognition recommendation and third-party comments, specifying a deadline that provides at least 30 days for the agency's response;

(4) Reviews the response to the draft analysis the agency submits, if any, and prepares the written final analysis. The final analysis includes a recognition recommendation to the senior Department official, as the Department staff deems appropriate, including, but not limited to, a recommendation to approve, deny, limit, suspend, or terminate recognition, require the submission of a compliance report and continue recognition pending a final decision on compliance, approve or deny a request for expansion of scope, or revise or affirm the scope of the agency; and

(5) Provides to the agency, no later than seven days before the Advisory Committee meeting, the final staff analysis and any other available information provided to the Advisory Committee under §602.34(c).

(g) The agency may request that the Advisory Committee defer acting on an application at that Advisory Committee meeting if Department staff fails to provide the agency with the materials described, and within the timeframes provided, in paragraphs (f)(3) and (f)(5) of this section. If the Department staff's failure to send the materials in accordance with the timeframe described in paragraph (f)(3) or (f)(5) of this section is due to the failure of the agency to submit reports to the Department, other information the Secretary requested, or its response to the draft analysis, by the deadline established by the Secretary, the agency forfeits its right to request a deferral of its application.

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

§602.33   Procedures for review of agencies during the period of recognition.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 58928, Nov. 1, 2019.

(a) Department staff may review the compliance of a recognized agency with the criteria for recognition at any time—

(1) At the request of the Advisory Committee; or

(2) Based on any information that, as determined by Department staff, appears credible and raises issues relevant to recognition.

(b) The review may include, but need not be limited to, any of the activities described in §602.32(b) and (d).

(c) If, in the course of the review, and after provision to the agency of the documentation concerning the inquiry and consultation with the agency, Department staff notes that one or more deficiencies may exist in the agency's compliance with the criteria for recognition or in the agency's effective application of those criteria, it—

(1) Prepares a written draft analysis of the agency's compliance with the criteria of concern. The draft analysis reflects the results of the review, and includes a recommendation regarding what action to take with respect to recognition. Possible recommendations include, but are not limited to, a recommendation to limit, suspend, or terminate recognition, or require the submission of a compliance report and to continue recognition pending a final decision on compliance;

(2) Sends the draft analysis including any identified areas of non-compliance, and a proposed recognition recommendation, and all supporting documentation to the agency; and

(3) Invites the agency to provide a written response to the draft analysis and proposed recognition recommendation, specifying a deadline that provides at least 30 days for the agency's response.

(d) If, after review of the agency's response to the draft analysis, Department staff concludes that the agency has demonstrated compliance with the criteria for recognition, the staff notifies the agency in writing of the results of the review. If the review was requested by the Advisory Committee, staff also provides the Advisory Committee with the results of the review.

(e) If, after review of the agency's response to the draft analysis, Department staff concludes that the agency has not demonstrated compliance, the staff—

(1) Notifies the agency that the draft analysis will be finalized for presentation to the Advisory Committee;

(2) Publishes a notice in the Federal Register including, if practicable, an invitation to the public to comment on the agency's compliance with the criteria in question and establishing a deadline for receipt of public comment;

(3) Provides the agency with a copy of all public comments received and, if practicable, invites a written response from the agency;

(4) Finalizes the staff analysis as necessary to reflect its review of any agency response and any public comment received; and

(5) Provides to the agency, no later than seven days before the Advisory Committee meeting, the final staff analysis and a recognition recommendation and any other information provided to the Advisory Committee under §602.34(c).

(f) The Advisory Committee reviews the matter in accordance with §602.34.

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

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