34 CFR § 602.32 - Procedures for submitting an application for recognition, renewal of recognition, expansion of scope, compliance reports, and increases in enrollment.
(a) An agency preparing for renewing recognition will submit, 24 months prior to the date on which the current recognition expires, and in conjunction with the materials required by § 602.31(a), a list of all institutions or programs that the agency plans to consider for an award of initial or renewed accreditation over the next year or, if none, over the succeeding year, as well as any institutions or programs currently subject to compliance report review or reporting requirements. An agency that does not anticipate a review of any institution or program for an initial award of accreditation or renewed accreditation in the 24 months prior to the date of recognition expiration may submit a list of institutions or programs it has reviewed for an initial award of accreditation or renewal of accreditation at any time since the prior award of recognition or leading up to the application for an initial award of recognition.
(b) An agency seeking initial recognition must follow the policies and procedures outlined in paragraph (a) of this section, but in addition must also submit -
(1) Letters of support for the agency from at least three accredited institutions or programs, three educators, and, if appropriate, three employers or practitioners, explaining the role for such an agency and the reasons for their support; and
(2) Letters from at least one program or institution that will rely on the agency as its link to a Federal program upon recognition of the agency or intends to seek multiple accreditation which will allow it in the future to designate the agency as its Federal link.
(c) Department staff publishes a notice of the agency's submission of an application in the Federal Register inviting the public to comment on the agency's compliance with the criteria for recognition and establishing a deadline for receipt of public comment.
(d) The Department staff analyzes the agency's application for initial or renewal of recognition, to determine whether the agency satisfies the criteria for recognition, taking into account all available relevant information concerning the compliance of the agency with those criteria and the agency's consistency in applying the criteria. The analysis of an application may include and, after January 1, 2021, will include -
(i) Observations from site visits, on an announced or unannounced basis, to the agency or to a location where the agency conducts activities such as training, review and evaluation panel meetings, or decision meetings;
(ii) Observations from site visits, on an announced or unannounced basis, to one or more of the institutions or programs the agency accredits or preaccredits;
(iii) A file review at the agency of documents, at which time Department staff may retain copies of documents needed for inclusion in the administrative record;
(iv) Review of the public comments and other third-party information Department staff receives by the established deadline, the agency's responses to the third-party comments, as appropriate, and any other information Department staff obtains for purposes of evaluating the agency under this part; and
(v) Review of complaints or legal actions involving the agency; and
(2) Review of complaints or legal actions against an institution or program accredited or preaccredited by the agency, which may be considered but are not necessarily determinative of compliance.
(e) The Department may view as a negative factor when considering an application for initial, or expansion of scope of, recognition as proposed by an agency, among other factors, any evidence that the agency was part of a concerted effort to unnecessarily restrict the qualifications necessary for a student to sit for a licensure or certification examination or otherwise be eligible for entry into a profession.
(f) Department staff's evaluation of an agency may also include a review of information directly related to institutions or programs accredited or preaccredited by the agency relative to their compliance with the agency's standards, the effectiveness of the standards, and the agency's application of those standards, but must make all materials relied upon in the evaluation available to the agency for review and comment.
(g) If, at any point in its evaluation of an agency seeking initial recognition, Department staff determines that the agency fails to demonstrate compliance with the basic eligibility requirements in §§ 602.10 through 602.15, the staff -
(1) Returns the agency's application and provides the agency with an explanation of the deficiencies that caused staff to take that action; and
(2) Requires that the agency withdraw its application and instructs the agency that it may reapply when the agency is able to demonstrate compliance.
(h) Except with respect to an application that has been returned and is withdrawn under paragraph (g) of this section, when Department staff completes its evaluation of the agency, the staff may and, after July 1, 2021, will -
(1) Prepare a written draft analysis of the agency's application;
(2) Send to the agency the draft analysis including any identified areas of potential noncompliance and all third-party comments and complaints, if applicable, and any other materials the Department received by the established deadline or is including in its review;
(3) Invite the agency to provide a written response to the draft analysis and third-party comments or other material included in the review, specifying a deadline that provides at least 180 days for the agency's response;
(4) Review the response to the draft analysis the agency submits, if any, and prepares the written final analysis -
(i) Indicating that the agency is in full compliance, substantial compliance, or noncompliance with each of the criteria for recognition; and
(ii) Recommending that the senior Department official approve, continue recognition with a compliance report-to be submitted to the Department within 12 months, continue recognition with a compliance report to be submitted to the Department with a deadline in excess of 12 months based on a finding of good cause and extraordinary circumstances, approve with monitoring or other reporting requirements, or deny, limit, suspend, or terminate recognition; and
(5) Provide to the agency, no later than 30 days before the Advisory Committee meeting, the final staff analysis and any other available information provided to the Advisory Committee under § 602.34(c).
(i) The agency may request that the Advisory Committee defer acting on an application at that Advisory Committee meeting if Department staff fails to provide the agency with the materials described, and within the timeframes provided, in paragraphs (g)(3) and (5) of this section. If the Department staff's failure to send the materials in accordance with the timeframe described in paragraph (g)(3) or (5) of this section is due to the failure of the agency to, by the deadline established by the Secretary, submit reports to the Department, other information the Secretary requested, or its response to the draft analysis, the agency forfeits its right to request a deferral of its application.
(j) An agency seeking an expansion of scope, either as part of the regular renewal of recognition process or during a period of recognition, must submit an application to the Secretary, separately or as part of the policies and procedures outlined in paragraph (a) of this section, that satisfies the requirements of §§ 602.12(b) and 602.31(b) and -
(1) States the reason for the expansion of scope request;
(2) Includes letters from at least three institutions or programs that would seek accreditation under one or more of the elements of the expansion of scope; and
(3) Explains how the agency must expand capacity to support the expansion of scope, if applicable, and, if necessary, how it will do so and how its budget will support that expansion of capacity.
(k) The Department may view as a negative factor when considering an application for initial or expansion of scope of recognition as proposed by an agency, among other factors, any evidence that the agency was part of a concerted effort to unnecessarily restrict the qualifications necessary for a student to sit for a licensure or certification examination or otherwise be eligible for entry into a profession.
(l) Department staff's evaluation of a compliance report includes review of public comments solicited by Department staff in the Federal Register received by the established deadline, the agency's responses to the third-party comments, as appropriate, other third-party information Department staff receives, and additional information described in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section, as appropriate.
(m) The Department will process an application for an expansion of scope, compliance report, or increase in enrollment report in accordance with paragraphs with paragraphs (c) through (h) of this section.