Council on Education garners affirmation as veterinary school accreditor

August 10, 2016

Federal committee advises continued recognition; controversy delays federal approval for more than three years.

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), a committee of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), has recommended continued recognition of the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) as the accrediting body of veterinary medical colleges through next year, according to a release from the AVMA. 

The COE's last five-year recognition was granted in 2007. In 2012, amid criticism from a group of veterinarians focused largely on the accreditation of schools with a distributive model of clinical education and “cronyism” among members of the council and AVMA leadership, the USDE staff identified several compliance issues that needed to be addressed. The agency subsequently provided several extensions of recognition pending appropriate responses from the COE.

In June, the USDE Staff provided a report to NACIQI stating that the previously identified issues had been satisfactorily resolved and recommended continuation of the COE's recognition through the end of this five-year cycle (2017), according to the release. The next step is for the U.S. Secretary of Education to formally accept the recommendation.

“This is great news for the hard-working members of the COE, who have diligently listened to criticisms and responded where appropriate with new policies and procedures to further reduce the potential for conflicts of interest between the COE and AVMA leadership,” says Andrew T. Maccabe, DVM, MPH, JD, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), in an association release.

In its attempts to listen to and answer its critics, the COE has undertaken a series of steps to gather input and educate stakeholders. Those efforts included working with the University of Illinois to formally query 15,000 stakeholders, engage in large-scale digital outreach, and hold a series of “listening sessions” at major veterinary conferences, the AAVMC states. As a result, the council has developed new policies and procedures to strengthen the firewall between the COE and AVMA leadership, among other changes.

In its listening session Aug. 7 during the AVMA Convention in San Antonio, COE leaders reported that a working group was examining the distributive model of clinical education and would report on its findings in September. “Even a college with a teaching hospital sends students out for certain aspects of their education,” said incoming COE chair John Scamahorn, DVM. “We are looking to ensure parity across the system.”

Other working groups are examining diversity in the profession and financial literacy among graduates, Scamahorn said.