Accrediting Body Asks For ‘Critical Flexibility’ in Distance Education Review - Higher Education


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Accrediting Body Asks For ‘Critical Flexibility’ in Distance Education Review

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The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions on Tuesday submitted a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the education department to extend its temporary guidance permitting accreditors to waive distance education review requirements.

Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley

“The decisions and plans colleges, universities, and systems need to make in these uncertain times should not be further burdened by unnecessary worries about effective dates of federal or accreditor rules,” wrote Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley, chair of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions and president of the Higher Learning Commission. “Given the uncertainty that lies ahead, we urge you to expeditiously extend this critical flexibility
through the 2020-21 academic year to allow institutions to make critical planning decisions necessary
in the coming weeks.”

Initially published on March 5 and subsequently updated on April 3, the Department’s current guidance states, “As an emergency measure to accommodate students, the Department provides broad approval to institutions to use distance learning modalities without going through the standard Department approval process … We also continue to permit accrediting agencies to waive their distance education review requirements.”

As it currently stands, the guidance remains effective until June 1, which Gellman-Danley says is too soon. She argues that the Department’s waiver should be extended into the 2020-21 academic year.

“Students deciding whether to return to or continue college will want to know the offerings for the full academic year or program, and their schools need to know whether they can safely plan for remote offerings far beyond June 1 or even the fall term,” wrote Gellman-Danley.

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