Accreditation Report Submitted to US Department of Education

cover of report featuring colored boxes and photos of college students

The Think College National Coordinating Center is pleased to share the Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community Livingrecently submitted to the US Department of Education and relevant Congressional committees.

The NCC is required by the HEOA to convene a Workgroup to develop and recommend model criteria, standards, and components of higher education programs for students with ID. The National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup issues this report in response to that statutory requirement.

The first National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup was established in 2011 and completed its work in 2015. That Workgroup developed, for the first time, model program accreditation standards for these programs and authored a report to Congress, the Secretary of Education, and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity or NACIQI, as required by Congress (National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup, 2016).

The second NCC Accreditation Workgroup began its work in 2016 and concluded in 2021 with this report. This Workgroup conducted a field test of the model standards developed by the first Workgroup, held sessions to gather public input, surveyed programs regarding their interest in becoming accredited, and reached out to existing accreditors to ascertain interest in using the model standards.

The updated standards, guidance, and review requirements may be found at the end of this report (see page 41). These revised standards reflect a significant step forward in creating authentic and high-quality higher education opportunities for students with ID. The recommendations in the report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Coordinating Center, and the next Workgroup will support and enhance progress in this field.

The current Workgroup, created in 2021, will focus on developing and field-testing an accreditation process and addressing issues involved in creating an accrediting agency and implementing accreditation. The implementation of model accreditation standards will move us forward on the path to inclusive higher education opportunities that lead to competitive integrated employment and community living.

Establishing and implementing model program accreditation standards will create benchmarks that will be useful for quality assurance and improvement of higher education programs enrolling students with ID. These standards will be used to validate and strengthen programs and provide guidelines for colleges and universities considering establishing high-quality programs. The model standards will be valuable for institutions of higher education and accrediting agencies, as well as students with ID and their families.

National Coordinating Center