The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was signed into law on August 14, 2008 to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. A deadline of July 1, 2010 was given for HEOA's implementation.
The reauthorization made many changes to the Act including several that affect accreditors and the accreditation process. A few of these include:
These and additional changes can be viewed in their entirety at HEOA
In order to comply with the new regulations the COE met in late May to revise eight areas of the COE's Policies and Procedures manual. Changes in the manual were made with the assistance of an accreditation law attorney and were put into effect immediately. Many of the changes were minor adjustments to wording in order to clarify procedures; however, some were more significant.
The most far reaching change involved the new due process requirement as it relates to an adverse decision. In the past the Council would inform a school about its deficiencies at the same time the final accreditation decision was made. An institution would then have thirty days to appeal the decisions.
Now, a school must be given an opportunity to respond in writing to the deficiencies before a final accreditation decision is determined. If, after the response the Council renders an adverse decision, the school may appeal.
The Council will provide the public with a summary of the reason for an adverse decision along with official comments from the school as well as evidence that a school was given an opportunity to respond.
The appeal process has also been revised. In the past the appeals panel consisted of five individuals now it will comprise seven, allowing for more diversity. The panel will include veterinary educators and practitioners; and a public member. The members will receive additional training. These changes will ensure a more balanced and qualified panel. Under the new policy, the appeals panel will have the authority to affirm, amend or reverse an adverse accreditation decision. In the past the panel did not have the power to reverse decisions.
These changes, required by the USDE, necessitated that the COE vacate its earlier decision regarding the accreditation status assigned to the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia (UNAM). This allowed UNAM to respond in writing to each deficiency noted by the Council. The Council will consider the response at its September 19-21, 2010 meeting.
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