Since the Council on Education (COE) received the official letter from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), dated March 9, the Council has received questions from members who want to know what could happen if the COE lost USDE recognition.
First of all, the Council is committed to meeting the recognition criteria of the USDE. The Council is in the process of gathering information from stakeholders (via surveys, listening sessions, etc.). This information has and will be considered by the Council and measures to come into compliance with the USDE recognition criteria are in progress. USDE recognition is a voluntary process and is not required for the COE to accredit veterinary medical colleges; however, the COE is not taking a cavalier approach to the matter. Continued recognition by the USDE is important to the COE for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the potential loss of eligibility for veterinary students to receive Health Professions Student Loans (HPSLs) under Title VII of the U.S. Public Health Service Act. Last year, the HPSL program distributed about $12M dollars to approximately 12% of US citizens attending veterinary school. It is this link to a federal program which allows COE to meet one of the eligibility requirements for recognition by the USDE. The COE is recognized by the USDE as a programmatic accreditor, but it is not a Title IV gatekeeper; that is, COE accreditation is not required for U.S. citizens to receive Title IV funding while attending domestic veterinary colleges. Another significant reason is that the COE highly values and plans to preserve its vital role in assuring the quality and integrity of veterinary medical education – a role it has proudly served since 1946.
The COE is the only accrediting agency for veterinary medical colleges in the US and Canada. Any new accrediting agency would have to become established, generally accepted, and written into the practice act or regulations of each state or province in the U.S. and Canada. Eligibility for USDE recognition requires a link to a federal program; therefore, a new accrediting agency would have to be written into the regulations governing the Title VII, HPSL program to establish a link. In addition, the accrediting agency must have been involved in accreditation activities and made decisions on granting or denying accreditation or pre-accreditation for a period of time (2-year minimum) and be accepted by licensing agencies, academia, and the profession in order to comply with eligibility requirements for USDE recognition.
If you’d like to receive more information and updates from the COE, please sign up for the COE Standard email newsletter (available to AVMA members only). The AVMA will also be sharing COE Standard content and accreditation updates on the AVMA@Work blog. We will keep you informed of accreditation issues and the progress and status of the COE’s recognition through these channels.