The Distance Education Accrediting Commission has the authority to establish and promulgate criteria for the evaluation and accreditation of distance education institutions. These criteria take the form of Accreditation Standards, Policies, and Procedures set forth in the DEAC Accreditation Handbook. The Accrediting Commission uses these criteria as it evaluates institutions and makes accreditation decisions. The criteria are under a continual and systematic review. Changes are made as appropriate and as required.

Persons, institutions and organizations with an interest in the Commission's accreditation standards and policies are invited to comment on Proposed Accreditation Standards, Policies and Procedures. and will be notified of the date for when any changes will be given final consideration by the Accrediting Commission. Interested persons, institutions, and organizations will be given at least 30 days to file written comments with the Executive Director of the Accrediting Commission.

The Accrediting Commission, after considering written comments, will conduct a further review of changes proposed to the Standards, Policies and Procedures. The Commission may adopt the changes to Accreditation Standards, Policies and Procedures as proposed, adopt with changes or modifications, defer action until further study and consideration is given, or discard the proposed changes altogether.

At its January 2021 meeting, the Commission reviewed a proposal from the Standards Committee that recommended revisions to Standard III.H.3, First Professional and Doctoral Degrees. The current language of this standard is prescriptive with respect to the timing for when a student must take their comprehensive examination and initiate the final research project/dissertation. The Standards Committee recommended modifying the language to allow students more flexibility to start dissertation work prior to completing the comprehensive exam, especially when a program is utilizing a mentoring model. The Commission accepted this recommendation, recognizing that pre-dissertation work may include topical research, literature review development, and the study of potential methodologies to support the student's future study.

The Commission is therefore seeking comment on proposed revisions that follow below. Comments may be sent to Leah Matthews, Executive Director at leah.matthews@deac.org. Please submit Comments by May 1, 2021.

New or relocated language for Standard III.H.3 is indicated with bold red underlined text; deletions are indicated with strikethrough.

III.H.3. FIRST PROFESSIONAL AND DOCTORAL DEGREES The institution assesses student achievement through multiple means of evaluation that includes a doctoral dissertation or final research project as well as other forms of assessments such as including qualifying examinations, comprehensive examinations, or other assessments that demonstrate student mastery of the stated program learning outcomes. and dissertation or final research project. The institution requires students to successfully complete a comprehensive examination when all coursework is completed and prior to commencing work on the and a doctoral dissertation or final research project to graduate from the program.

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