Another review of AVMA COE nears

Public comments due April 8

March 31, 2016 (published)
By Edie Lau

How to submit comments

The organization that accredits veterinary schools in the United States and Canada is due in June for another reckoning before the federal panel that previously ordered the group to repair its troubled relationship with veterinarians.

The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (COE) is scheduled to appear before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) during a meeting June 22-24.

NACIQI is an advisory body to the U.S. Secretary of Education on matters of accreditation of higher-education institutions. Organizations that confer accreditation periodically must renew their authorization to do so.

The last time the COE came before NACIQI, in December 2014, it hit a major snag. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) received a barrage of letters, more than 900, mostly from veterinarians who were critical of the COE’s performance.

Department of Education staff and NACIQI heeded the criticisms, which identified problems with conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest; questions about the relationship between the COE and the AVMA as a whole; doubts about whether student-achievement standards were applied consistently; and deep discord between the practitioner community and the COE.

In response, NACIQI recommended extending COE’s accreditation authority for six months and requiring it to come into compliance within 12 months. It called for the COE to submit a report showing that it has achieved “wide acceptance among practitioners” and “applies clear and effective controls against conflicts of interest or appearance of conflicts of interest.”

letter to the COE from the USDE dated March 9, 2015, made the action official.

That was not the first time the COE ran into difficulty renewing its status as an accreditor. In December 2012, NACIQI called on the council to become more transparent and consistent, and to better guard against conflicts of interest.

More recently, in a separate development, the USDE in June authorized the COE to accredit foreign veterinary schools. The COE’s involvement in foreign-school accreditation has been one of the top issues raised by its critics, who have contended that it distracts the agency from its responsibilities at home. Until the USDE action last summer, the COE’s activity in foreign-school accreditation was self-assigned.

In advance of the upcoming review of the COE's role with domestic programs, the public may submit further comments to the USDE. The deadline for comments is April 8.

Comments must relate to the issues identified in the compliance report and the criteria for recognition cited by the USDE in its letter requesting the report.

The agency also is accepting requests to speak at the meeting. Requests must be received by April 29. Everyone who submits a request by the deadline will be accommodated.

Requests to speak also may be made in person early on June 22, the first day of the meeting. Those requests will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.

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