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Executive Director Update - November 2009

Milestones for ACICS
The surge in enrollment for colleges and schools providing workforce education is having an impact on ACICS operations. The organization reached two important milestones in November: ACICS now accredits 780 colleges and schools in 11 countries, and the combined enrollment of those institutions exceeds 700,000 students. Likewise, there has been a surge in the number of applicants seeking an initial grant of accreditation through ACICS: as many as 62 institutions are in the pipeline for an initial grant evaluation.

ACICS is working hard to accommodate the demand for review of new programs and other substantive changes derived from the growth surge. During the past 12 months, ACICS processed more than 1,554 new program applications. In addition, more than 1,200 substantive and non-substantive applications and institutional requests were processed. To maintain effective institutional and program quality assurance, hundreds of trained evaluators were engaged in on-campus evaluations for more than 630 visits days in the past three visit cycles.

Key highlights derived from the recently submitted annual institutional reports include an average enrollment of nearly 1,000 students per institution, and average retention and placement rates that exceed ACICS standards despite the risk to those indicators posed by the economic downturn. Look for a comprehensive summary of key operating statistics (KOS) in early 2010.

Rulemaking Focuses on Safe Harbors, ATB, Placement
ACICS and other national accreditors participated in the first session of the second round of negotiated rulemaking related to implementation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. Consumer advocacy organizations are calling for tougher regulation of high school diploma mills, fraudulent high school credentials, and ability to benefit (ATB) test administration. The non-federal negotiators representing consumers also recommended tougher rules regarding safe harbors for compensation paid to enrollment recruiters and the definition of gainful employment for purposes of tracking placement in field.  Incentive compensation is a high priority issue for some negotiators, who appear to be eager to eliminate the safe harbors in regulation. Expect draft regulations at the next session (mid-December) that eliminate or seriously curtail access to safe harbors. More significantly, the definition of gainful employment is a “top priority” for some negotiators, who have expressed concern that national accreditors do not have uniform placement and completion standards. The Government Accountability Office is expected to release new findings in February 2010 regarding its review of incentive compensation practices and the application of safe harbors by proprietary schools.

Outreach to Maryland Association
ACICS staff will travel to the annual conference of the Maryland Association of Private Colleges and Career Schools Dec. 11 at the BWI Marriott Hotel in Baltimore. State association conferences provide an opportunity for ACICS officials to meet with the owners and directors of colleges and schools, and review the critical issues affecting their operations on a local basis. Members and conferees are encouraged to introduce themselves to the ACICS staff members.

Workshops, Webinars Go On Road
To better meet the needs of ACICS Institutions preparing for their next round of accreditation review, a robust schedule of workshops at different locations throughout the country has been established. During the first quarter of 2010:

  • Accreditation workshops will be Jan. 15 in Orlando; Feb. 12 at John Dewey College in Puerto Rico; and Feb. 26 in Washington, D.C.

  • A workshop for institutions with deferrals is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Washington.

  • ACICS will host an AWARE Webinar on Jan. 22 to review proposed changes to the criteria considered or adopted by Council.

  • Webinars to train peer evaluators will be on-line on Jan. 29 and March 26.

  • A workshop for initial applicants will be Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C.

Visit www.acics.org for details about these professional development opportunities.