Letter from the President - November 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Let me begin with a note of sympathy for our campus communities affected by the Borderline ‘College Night’ shooting, California wildfires, and Northern Marianas typhoon. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday just past, we give thanks for the many campus and community members who provided comfort and support to those affected by these tragedies.

The national conversation on higher education has accelerated since the U.S. Department of Education this summer announced a negotiated rulemaking to rewrite several higher education policies. Beginning with formal sessions in January-March, that rulemaking process will bring together stakeholders and policymakers to explore opportunities to change federal regulations affecting postsecondary education broadly and accreditation in particular.

The issues on the table are diverse and complex, ranging from credit hour and state authorization to competency-based education and distance learning. The responsibilities of and limitations on accrediting agencies are likely to be central issues in the negotiation and development of changes to current rules, along with student outcomes measures, accreditation recognition procedures, and relationships among accreditor, state, and federal functions. For this reason, WSCUC will remain an active and engaged voice throughout the negotiated rulemaking process.

In September, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to testify about the rulemaking. I underscored the importance of ensuring that any regulatory changes are carefully crafted to allow flexibility and innovation while also maintaining protections for students and taxpayers. I and many others noted that the timeline and breadth of issues the department has established for this rulemaking could constrain the listening and constructive discussion necessary to develop better policies.

In my comments, I noted that, as a former U.S. Department of Education official, I have a rare affection for this initially strange, unwelcome negotiated rulemaking process that at its best promotes genuine interchange, learning, and development of smarter rules. I look forward to updating you on the process and certainly welcome ideas from WSCUC members on issues that arise as the rulemaking continues and as we see and work to inform higher education policy connected to accreditation and student success at the federal and state level.

Sincerely,


Jamienne S. Studley
President, WSCUC