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Letter from Dr. Leah Matthews on National and Regional Accreditation

 
 
May 16, 2016
 
 
Dear Dr. Sears,
 
I am delighted to provide you with some insights and information to demonstrate how DEAC is distinctive as an accreditor and has the same facets and procedures as regional accreditation. DEAC is entering its 90th year as the only recognized institutional accrediting organization for distance education institutions in the United States.  It was among the first accreditors to receive federal recognition when the 1952 Veterans Adjustment Act provided tuition assistance to veterans attending accredited institutions.  DEAC initially received federal recognition status in 1959 and has continually held recognition by the U.S. Department of Education ever since. DEAC is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). I would like to emphasize that DEAC is the only national accrediting organization that holds both CHEA and USDE recognition with authority to review and approve institutions that offer degree credentials through the doctoral level.  DEAC’s accreditation standards, procedures, requirements are equivalent, and in some several areas more stringent for the quality assessment of distance education, when compared to regional accreditation.  A few examples of how DEAC’s standards for distance education are more rigorous than regional accreditation:
 
  1. DEAC requires institutions to implement proctored examinations at regular intervals to assure student identity and attribution of achievement.
  2. DEAC requires institutions to undergo a comprehensive assessment of curriculum materials every five years through documented collaboration with faculty teaching in the discipline at a regionally-accredited institution.
  3. DEAC has rigorous expectations in place for state authorization of distance education and requires institutions to document their authorization status for every state where students are enrolled.
 
DEAC-accredited institutions are primarily degree-granting at the graduate level.  The vast majority of the student body at DEAC institutions are working professionals seeking degree credentials to advance in their chosen profession; whether education, health care, law, business, information technology, or psychology to name a few.  Many DEAC institutions offer liberal arts degrees as well.  DEAC tends to be erroneously bracketed as a “national career-school accreditor”. But, clearly that is not the mission and focus of DEAC-accredited institutions.  Based upon its CHEA and USDE recognition, as well as its degree approval through doctoral level credentials, DEAC is much more closely aligned with regional accreditation.
 
To further emphasize how DEAC is accepted within the broader higher education community please consider the distinguished activities that I am involved in on behalf of the entire accreditation community.  I was selected to serve as a non-federal negotiator representing all of accreditation (regional and national) for the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 Program Integrity Rulemaking that addressed regulations for distance education state authorization. I was recently elected as the At-Large Member of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) Leadership Steering Committee and I am also beginning a three-year term as a board member representing accreditation on the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).  Certainly, my ability to serve in these prestigious leadership roles is a testament to DEAC’s excellent reputation within the higher education accreditation community.
 
I hope that this comparative assessment is helpful.  Please let me know if there is anything more formal that I can do on your behalf.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Leah K. Matthews, PhD
Executive Director
Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)