ACICS defines standards for student achievement that include Retention Rates, Placement Rates and Licensure Examination Pass Rates. These rates are calculated using data on retention and job placement from the annual Campus Accountability Report (CAR) and data on licensure pass rates from the annual CAR Addendum. The relevant terminology is defined and the formulas are described in the Guidelines and Instructions for the Campus Accountability Report and the Guidelines and Instructions for the CAR Addendum. Quantitative Standards are defined at the Benchmark level and the Compliance level. ACICS has enhanced those standards for application to CAR data beginning with the 2013 reporting year. These standards are applied at both the program level and the campus level, as described below.
Benchmark Standards – Benchmarks are intended to encourage campuses and programs whose student achievement is below average to improve their performance and to ensure that they avoid falling out of compliance. A campus whose rates fall below the Benchmarks must develop and implement a Campus Improvement Plan and fulfill certain reporting and other requirements. However, applications for new programs by these campuses may be submitted without requesting a waiver. A program whose rates fall below the Benchmark standard must develop and implement a Program Improvement Plan.
Compliance Standards – Compliance standards are intended to ensure that a substantial majority of students at ACICS-accredited campuses are retained, pass licensure exams where applicable, and find employment related to their fields. A campus whose rates fall below the Compliance Standard must come into compliance within established timeframes or its grant of accreditation may be withdrawn. A program whose rates fall below the Compliance Standard must come into compliance within established timeframes, or approval for inclusion of the program within the campus’s grant of accreditation may be withdrawn. A campus whose retention or placement rate falls below the Compliance Standard must seek prior approval (by means of a waiver) in order to apply for approval of a new program.
2013 Reporting Year – ACICS adopted enhanced student achievement standards in July 2012, effective for the 2013 reporting period and beyond, as described in the table below.
1Where licensure is required for employment. 2Must also meet applicable agency standards
Mitigating Circumstances – ACICS will give due consideration to mitigating circumstances when applying these standards. If student achievement at a campus falls below one or another of the ACICS compliance standards at the program or campus level due to circumstances beyond the campus’ control, the campus is invited to request a waiver from the application of the standard by submitting evidence of the mitigating circumstance as part of the Campus Accountability Report due November 1, 2013 or the CAR Addendum due March 1, 2014. In addition to submission of data in the CAR or CAR Addendum, a program or campus improvement plan addressing the issue must also be uploaded with the CAR or CAR Addendum. The mitigating circumstances which qualify for waivers are listed in the CAR and CAR Addendum and the required documentation is described in the respective Guidelines and Instructions. If a waiver is requested for a particular mitigating circumstance in a subsequent year, the Program or Campus Improvement Plan must show continuous improvement and the campus must upload evidence that investment of resources to address the circumstance has been sufficient.
Improvement Notice and Compliance Warning Letters – A campus whose retention, placement or licensure pass rate is determined by the Council to fall below the ACICS benchmark standard at either the campus level or program level, will receive an Improvement Notice describing the relevant rates and standards as well as the resulting requirements for developing an improvement plan, submitting interim reports, and participating in workshops consultations or visits, as necessary. A campus whose retention, placement or licensure pass rate is determined by the Council to fall below the ACICS compliance standard will receive a Compliance Warning citing the rates and standards and describing the established timeframe within which the campus and/or program must come into compliance. Some campuses will receive only an Improvement Notice. However, campuses which receive a Compliance Warning letter will also receive an Improvement Notice letter.
Established Timeframes for Compliance – If the Council determines that an institution is not in compliance with the Compliance Standards, it will take prompt adverse action against the institution, or it will require the institution to take appropriate action to bring itself into compliance with these standards within a specified time frame after the institution has been notified that it is not in compliance. That time frame will not exceed the following:
(a) twelve months, if the longest program is less than one year in length;
(b) eighteen months, if the longest program is at least one year, but less than two years in length;
(c) two years, if the longest program is at least two years in length.
These time frames may be extended at the sole discretion of the Council for good cause, including evidence that there has been significant improvement in the deficient area(s) and the applicable time frame does not provide sufficient time to demonstrate full compliance, e.g., significant improvement in retention, placement or licensure pass rates.
Data Collection and Verification – The ACICS standards are applied by the Council to the data that is collected from each main campus and each additional location through the annual Campus Accountability Report (CAR) and the Annual CAR Addendum. This data is used to calculate a retention rate and placement rate for each program and each campus and a licensure pass rate for each program for which licensure is required for employment in the state where the campus is located. The CAR is due on November 1st of each year and the CAR Addendum is due on March 1st of each year.
The Council makes decisions about the application of standards to these data at its meetings in December and in April. The data is spot checked by program specialists serving as evaluators on a site evaluation visit team for a grant renewal or the inclusion in a grant of a new additional location. Because of the unique significance of data about job placement, ACICS is developing a special program to verify job placement data. This program will be developed in 2013, tested in 2014 and scaled up for full operation by 2015.