American Bar Association Takes Heat From Advisory Panel on Accreditation

The American Bar Association drew intense scrutiny on Thursday from a federal panel that reviews accrediting agencies.

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which advises the U.S. education secretary on accreditation issues, used a meeting here to review the applications of 10 accrediting agencies to be recognized by the federal government.

An accrediting organization must be recognized by the secretary of education in order to approve colleges and universities to receive federal student aid. The committee does not actually decide the recognition status of accrediting bodies, but makes a recommendation to the secretary based on a review carried out by members of the Education Department staff.

Of the 10 agencies being reviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, all were recommended for continued recognition, though eight of them must submit a report within 12 months to show that they have corrected flaws revealed by the department staff.

But several members of the committee expressed reservations about approving that status for the American Bar Association, which was found to be out of compliance with 17 regulations, including the need to consider student-loan default rates in assessing programs; to solicit and consider public comments; and to set a standard for job placement by its member institutions.

Arthur E. Keiser, chancellor of the Keiser Collegiate System, said that an accrediting agency would not accredit an institution with 17 outstanding issues. "There is a real concern that this agency doesn’t get it," he said.

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THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

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