Dept. of Education Reconfirms ACAOM as Accrediting Agency
By Editorial Staff
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), has voted to recommend that the Secretary of Education renew recognition of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for five years, the maximum period currently allowed by the DOE.
The committee has also approved ACAOM's application for an expansion of scope of its recognition to include its candidacy reviews of acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs, opening the door for those programs to establish eligibility for federal student financial aid.
ACAOM was established by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in June 1982, and was originally known as the National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NACSCAOM). Its original objectives were to establish standards for measuring educational achievement in acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs, and to obtain formal recognition and approval of those standards through traditional higher education organizations in the U.S. The commission was renamed ACAOM in 1997.
ACAOM was first recognized by the Department of Education in 1988 to accredit first-professional master's degree and professional master's-level certificate and diploma programs in acupuncture. In 1992, the DOE expanded the scope of ACAOM's accreditation to include degrees and diploma programs in Oriental medicine. ACAOM's recognition was last reviewed by DOE in 2000, at which time it received a five-year renewal.
All DOE-recognized accrediting agencies are subject to periodic reviews in order for their recognition to be maintained. The review process begins with the submission of a lengthy recognition petition that documents how the agency meets each of the Secretary of Education's recognition criteria. Following the petition, on-site inspections are held at the agency's offices, and include a review of the agency's records, policies and procedures, along with interviews of key staff members.
To be recognized by the Secretary of Education, accrediting agencies must demonstrate that their policies and procedures are implemented with integrity, meet the requirements for recognition (or re-recognition), and that they are considered "reliable authorities regarding the quality of education or training offered by the institutions or programs they accredit." Recognized agencies are also required to demonstrate that their accreditation policies and procedures "are widely accepted in the United States by educators and educational institutions, licensing bodies, practitioners, and employers" in their respective field.
On Dec. 8, 2005, at a public confirmation hearing in Arlington, Va., ACAOM's executive committee appeared before the advisory committee and submitted its petition for renewal of recognition. The advisory committee also received oral testimony from members of the nation's leading acupuncture and Oriental medicine organizations, including David Paton, LAc, president of the Federation of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Regulatory Agencies, and AAOM President Will Morris, OMD, LAc. In addition, the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance submitted a letter of endorsement to the committee on behalf of ACAOM, as did several other organizations.
At the conclusion of the confirmation hearing, the advisory committee found that ACAOM had met all of the Secretary of Education's criteria for recognition, and that it did not have to submit an interim report, as do some agencies that do not meet all DOE criteria. It summarily recommended that the secretary grant ACAOM the maximum five-year renewal of recognition period.
Perhaps most important was the recommendation from the committee that ACAOM's request for an expansion of scope be granted regarding both "accreditation and preaccreditation" of acupuncture programs. This means that institutions and programs that have been granted candidacy status by ACAOM could use that status to establish eligibility for Title IV federal financial aid for student loans. Currently, only acupuncture schools and degree programs that are fully accredited by ACAOM are eligible to participate in federal student financial aid programs.
The advisory committee's recommendations will require final action by the Secretary of Education for approval, which is expected in the near future. Interested parties are encouraged to contact ACAOM at (301) 313-0855 for more information.