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RULE §7.6Recognition of Accrediting Agencies

(a) Eligibility Criteria--The Board may recognize accrediting agencies with a commitment to academic quality and student achievement that demonstrate, through an application process, compliance with the following criteria:

  (1) Eligibility. The accrediting agency's application for recognition must demonstrate that the entity:

    (A) Is recognized by the Secretary of Education of the United States Department of Education as an accrediting agency authorized to accredit educational institutions that offer the associate degree or higher. Demonstration of authorization shall include clear description of the scope of recognized accreditation.

    (B) Is applying for the same scope of recognition as that for which it is recognized by the Secretary of Education of the United States Department of Education:

      (i) Using the U.S. Department of Education classification of instructional programs (CIP) code at the two-digit level, the applicant shall identify all fields of study in which institutions it accredits may offer degree programs.

      (ii) Accrediting agencies shall, for each field of study in which an accredited institution may offer degree programs, specify the levels of degrees that may be awarded. Levels must be differentiated at least to the following, as defined in §7.3 of this chapter (relating to Definitions): applied associate degree, academic associate degree, baccalaureate degree, master's degree, first professional degree and doctoral degree. Associate of occupational studies (AOS) degrees are only allowed under §7.5(c) of this chapter (relating to Administrative Injunctions, Limitations, and Penalties).

      (iii) Only institutions that qualify as eligible for United States Department of Education Title IV programs as a result of accreditation by the applicant agency will be considered exempt under §7.7 of this chapter (relating to Institutions Accredited by Board-Recognized Accreditors).

    (C) Accredits institutions that have legal authority to confer postsecondary degrees as its primary activity:

      (i) Accrediting agencies must identify all institutions accredited by the agency that either the majority of the accredited institutions have the legal authority to award postsecondary degrees or that it accredits at least fifty (50) institutions that have the legal authority to award postsecondary degrees.

      (ii) An accrediting agency that accredits programs as well as institutions shall demonstrate that either it accredits more institutions than programs or that it has policies, procedures and staff sufficient to address institutional standards of quality in addition to program standards of quality.

      (iii) Accrediting agencies must have standards that require all accredited institutions to comply with all applicable laws in the state and local jurisdiction in which they operate and that require accredited institutions to clearly and accurately communicate their accreditation status to the public.

    (D) Requires an on-site review by a visiting team as part of initial and continuing accreditation of educational institutions:

      (i) Each accrediting agency shall demonstrate, through its documented practices and/or its official policies, that it requires no fewer than three (3) members on a team when conducting initial and continuing accreditation visits, that none have a monetary or personal interest in the findings of the on-site review, that all have professional experience and knowledge that qualifies them to review the institution's compliance with the standards of the agency, and that the combined team experience and knowledge are sufficient to review all applicable standards of the agency.

      (ii) Accrediting agencies may conduct site visits for reasons other than initial and continuing accreditation with fewer team members.

      (iii) Accrediting agencies shall provide a list of the visiting team members for the five (5) most recently completed on-site reviews. The list shall show name, employer, title of positions held with that employer and the standards for which the individual was responsible in that on-site review.

    (E) Has policies or procedures that ensure the entity will promptly respond to requests for information from the Board:

      (i) Each accrediting agency shall provide the Board its official policy regarding disclosure of information about institutions that are or have been candidates for accreditation and are or have been accredited. Agencies shall provide to the Board, within ten (10) working days, any new information and any requested information about a Texas institution that would be available to the public under that official policy.

      (ii) Each accrediting agency shall include in its standards for accreditation of Texas institutions that the institutions disclose publicly and to the Board the number of degrees awarded at each level each year and the number of students enrolled in the fall of each year.

    (F) Has sufficient resources to carry out its functions:

      (i) Accrediting agencies shall identify the number of on-site reviews conducted during the most recent twelve (12) month period, the number of staff members who participated in those on-site reviews and the maximum number of on-site reviews conducted by any individual staff member. If that maximum number exceeds thirty (30), the agency shall explain how it expects to carry out its function of enforcing its standards on Texas institutions.

      (ii) Each accrediting agency shall provide evidence that its ratio of current assets to current liabilities equals or exceeds 1.2.

      (iii) Each accrediting agency shall demonstrate that its fees are reasonable for the accreditation services provided.

  (2) Recognition--To receive and maintain recognition from the Board, the accrediting agency must, in addition to the items listed in paragraph (1) of this subsection:

    (A) Provide the Board with current standards used by the entity in initial and ongoing accreditation reviews of educational institutions and invite the Board to participate in such reviews:

      (i) Accrediting agencies must have publicly disclosed standards that address at a minimum the following issues: student achievement in relation to the institution's mission; curricula; faculty; facilities, equipment and supplies; fiscal and administrative capacity; student support services; recruiting and admissions practices; academic calendars; catalogs; grading; measures of program length; objectives of the degrees or credentials offered; record of student complaints received by or available to the agency; management and financial control.

      (ii) In the application process, the accrediting agency must indicate how its standards address each of the quality assessment categories outlined in clause (i) of this subparagraph which represent the underlying principles described in the institutional standards of §7.4 of this chapter (relating to Standards for Operations of Institutions). Comparison of its standards with the standards in §7.4 of this chapter is required as a means of indicating how its standards meet those principles.

      (iii) Each accrediting agency shall provide its policy for periodic reviews of institutions under its accreditation. At a minimum, the accrediting agency must conduct on-site reviews at least every ten (10) years.

      (iv) At least ten (10) working days before each scheduled periodic on-site review of a Texas institution, accrediting agencies shall invite the Board staff to participate in the review. Such participation shall be at no expense to the institution or the accrediting agency.

      (v) Within ten (10) working days of an official change in standards, the agency shall notify the Board of those changes.

      (vi) By providing a copy of its publicly disclosed policies and procedures, each accrediting agency shall demonstrate that its initial and ongoing reviews and the resultant accreditation decisions are fair and consistent with the available evidence.

      (vii) Accrediting agencies that use an advisory body, similar to the Certification Advisory Council described in §7.8 of this chapter (relating to Institutions Not Accredited by a Board-Recognized Accreditor), shall describe the advisory body's composition and authority. Accrediting agencies that do not use such a body shall describe the process used to ensure that the evidence obtained from reviews results in appropriate accreditation decisions.

      (viii) The initial and ongoing reviews shall include an institutional self-evaluation process or a documented alternative process to promote continuous quality improvement.

      (ix) Each accrediting agency shall have and publicly disclose its processes for appealing accreditation decisions.

    (B) Provide the Board with written evidence of continuing recognition by the Secretary of Education of the United States Department of Education. Loss of recognition from the Secretary automatically results in loss of Board recognition at the same time. Written evidence may consist of a letter from the chief executive officer of the accrediting agency. Accrediting agencies shall submit the evidence upon notice of continued recognition or upon a change in recognition status, scope or level;

    (C) Provide a list of Texas educational institutions accredited by it; notify the Board in writing of any change to its list of Texas accredited institutions within ten (10) days of the change;

    (D) Notify the Board of any investigated complaints concerning a Texas institution where the accrediting agency took official action on issues of non-compliance and the disposition of those complaints;

    (E) Seek Board approval for any expansion of its recognized scope of accreditation authority; and

    (F) Demonstrate that the ownership and control of the accrediting agency is sufficiently independent to ensure that the accreditation process is conducted in the public interest.

    (G) Each time the accrediting agency applies for continued recognition by the Secretary of Education of the United States Department of Education, the accrediting agency must apply for continued recognition by the Coordinating Board. Applications forms will be provided by Board staff. Application for continued recognition must, at a minimum, contain all information required for initial eligibility and recognition by the Coordinating Board under this rule.

(b) Other Information, Denial or Withdrawal of Recognition and Appeals.

  (1) Once recognized, an accrediting agency retains that recognition unless and until the Board withdraws the recognition. Failure to comply with any of the requirements in this chapter, including failure to comply with information requests during periodic reviews, will be grounds for the Board to consider withdrawing recognition.

  (2) Each accrediting agency shall provide its policy for periodic reviews. Periodic review shall be conducted at the time an accrediting agency applies for continued recognition by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education. The Coordinating Board reserves the right to request and review current policies at other times for good cause, including, but not limited to, student complaints, accredited institution complaints, or concerns raised by the United States Department of Education or other state or federal agencies.

  (3) The Board may use information provided by parties other than the accrediting agency to assess the accrediting agency's commitment to academic quality and student achievement. The Board will consider any such information in an open, public meeting during which the accrediting agency may challenge the information.

  (4) The Board will make any decision to deny recognition of an accrediting agency or to withdraw recognition from an accrediting agency in a public meeting.

  (5) An institution operating in Texas as an exempt institution pursuant to §7.7 of this chapter when its recognized accrediting agency loses or voluntarily relinquishes its recognition will have a provisional time period set by the Board, or Board staff as delegated, within which the institution may continue to operate pursuant to the requirements in §7.7(2) and (3) of this chapter.

  (6) An accrediting agency or institution affected by any final decision under this subchapter may appeal that decision as provided in Chapter 1, Subchapter B of this title (relating to Dispute Resolution).

Source Note: The provisions of this §7.6 adopted to be effective December 6, 2009, 34 TexReg 8515; amended to be effective February 26, 2013, 38 TexReg 1152; amended to be effective November 23, 2016, 41 TexReg 9113; amended to be effective March 2, 2020, 45 TexReg 1395

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