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Executive Director Update - December 2009

 

Holiday Greetings! 

On behalf of the Board and Staff of ACICS, my sincere wishes to all for a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season, and every success in the New Year. The vibrant, innovative forces shaping our sector create challenges for the quality assurance enterprise; however, the dedication at every level in our colleges and schools to providing quality education to hundreds of thousands of students has never been stronger. From that rock-solid foundation, we will continue to grow and excel in 2010 in service to students.

Warm Regards,

Al Gray 

 

'Distributed Enterprise' Standards Underdevelopment
The evolution of workforce education has created an array of organizational structures and architectures to deliver quality education in an agile, student-centered manner using efficient and effective practices. The state of the art includes single-campus institutions, multi-campus institutions and organizations, and something the U.S. Department of Education deems to be a "distributed enterprise." In the latter model, it is assumed that a high degree of centralized control at the main campus or corporate headquarters creates the opportunity to assure quality, consistency and accountability throughout the system. It also assumes that visiting every branch campus or learning site each accreditation cycle may not be necessary.  To better align standards and practices with the organizational architecture of many institutions we accredit, ACICS has begun developing new standards and practices to adopt the flexibility of the distributed enterprise model to the accreditation enterprise. A sub-committee of the Council has initiated a series of reforms that will benefit not only multi-campus systems, but streamline procedures and reviews for smaller institutions as well.  Watch for more details after the Council reviews specific criteria proposals at its February and April 2010 meetings.

CDR Mitigation Measures Reviewed
In anticipation of having to comply with the new 3-year cohort default standard, Council reviewed options and strategies to help ACICS institutions remain in compliance.

The context for the Council review includes awareness that many economic, demographic, financial and institutional factors can contribute to the default of repayment of student financial aid, such as the student's personal financial resources, the terms of the loan and services provided to the borrower, unemployment rates and other factors.

The Council also acknowledged that institutions which fall below standards for retaining students or placing students in jobs stand a greater risk of logging higher rates of cohort default. The required reporting and monitoring of retention and placement through the Annual Institutional Report reflects the strong priority.

Accordingly, Council has requested all institutions with Cohort Default Rates approaching thresholds of non-compliance submit Default Improvement Plans this spring.  Institutions are also encouraged to review the informational resources and default prevention and management strategies available from ACICS and the U.S. Department of Education. The Council will closely monitor CDR rate changes, and develop and deliver a special webinar on default prevention, and conduct a best practices survey for review.

New Board Leadership In Place
With the New Year comes a change in leadership of the Council. In 2010 the Board of Director of ACICS will be chaired by Matt Johnston of Santa Barbara Business College, CA. The chair-elect is Dr. Gary Carlson of ITT Technical Institute. Out-going chair Eric Juhlin was given recognition and accolades by his peers at the December Council meeting.

Rulemaking Focus Persists on Safe Harbors, Placement
  The second session of negotiated rulemaking by the U.S. Department of Education dedicated time and attention to the structure of compensation for enrollment recruiters and the definition of placement in field, among other issues (CHEA Federal Update, Dec. 15). Department proposals would eliminate all "safe harbors" to the law prohibiting recruiters and admissions personnel from being paid based on meeting numerical thresholds. A small group of negotiators representing institutions are developing alternatives to the existing safe harbors in an effort to preserve some clarity of enforcement. Strong emphasis and contention also arose regarding the issues of "gainful employment." The Department has proposed requirements that link cost of a program to salaries of graduates and student debt load. The final session of the rulemaking is set for the week of Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C.

Workshops, Webinars Go On The 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:

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