ACAHM Distance Education Policy Announcement [5 May 2022]
ACAHM and its accredited institutions and programs are currently operating under and subject to the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department or USDE) temporary flexibility guidance for distance education. When these temporary flexibilities end all ACAHM-accredited institutions and programs will need to comply with ACAHM’s Distance Education Policy and related procedures regarding distance education.
On 19 January 2021 the Department issued guidance on accreditation and eligibility requirements for distance education in its electronic announcement titled Guidance on Accreditation and Eligibility Requirements for Distance Education (EA ID: OPE-21-06). In that guidance the Department stated that Dear Colleague Letter GEN-06-17 had been rescinded in August 2020. Dear Colleague Letter GEN-06-17 interpreted the Department’s regulatory requirements to establish a 50 percent threshold for accreditor approval of distance education. Under that interpretation, if an institution did not offer more than 50 percent of an educational program via distance education, distance education was not required to be evaluated or approved by an accrediting agency.
ACAHM’s distance education and 1.15 substantive change policies and practices had relied on this now rescinded Dear Colleague Letter GEN-06-17. These former policies and past practices limited distance education “approval” to only those institutions and programs offering less than 50% of their courses/programs via distance education.
On 1 July 2021 federal Distance Education and Innovation rules became effective. Under these rules, before an institution/program offers, via distance education, courses or any portion of a program that is Title IV financial aid eligible, the institution/program must be evaluated and accredited for its effective delivery of distance education by a recognized accrediting agency that has distance education within its scope of recognition.
In furtherance of, and compliance with, these new federal guidelines, the Commission successfully added distance education oversight to ACAHM scope of recognition issued by the Department. The Commission spent significant time and resources researching and considering revisions to its Distance Education and Substantive Change policies, and its 1.15 substantive change process leading to distance education accreditation. Our revisions were informed by the Proposed 21st Century Distance Education Guidelines, C-RAC’s Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, and similar best-practice resources.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ACAHM-ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS & PROGRAMS
ALL ACAHM-accredited institutions and programs wishing to offer courses or any portion of a program via distance education, once the temporary flexibilities end, must be “accredited” by ACAHM under the Commission’s “new” Distance Education Policy and 1.15 substantive change process leading to distance education accreditation. ACAHM recommends that all accredited institutions/programs immediately initiate a detailed review of the new policy and consider institutional implications. ACAHM is currently testing a new 1.15 application for subsequent release and will schedule related webinars to provide additional guidance and to address related questions for completing this process.
Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions. (2021, June). C-RAC Statement on Proposed Distance Education Guidelines. C-RAC. https://www.c-rac.org/post/c-rac-statement-on-nc-sara-distance-education-guidelines
National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. (2021, June). 21st Century Guidelines for Distance Education: An Overview & Update. NC-SARA. https://nc-sara.org/news-events/21st-century-guidelines-distance-education-overview-update
Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine. (2022, April). Distance Education Policy. ACAHM. https://acahm.org/policies/distance-education/