Earlier this month I concluded my work as a non-federal
negotiator on the US Department of Education’s Accreditation & Innovation
Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, negotiating specific federal rules on topics
such as accreditor recognition requirements, distance education requirements,
and some related federal financial aid issues. In this role, I was one of 15
individuals – and the only one with expertise in specialized accreditation – sitting
around a table for 10 hours a day, for a total of 13 days over three
months, negotiating agreements about very complicated (and often arcane) policy
issues with others who often had vastly different views from my own.
The rulemaking process begins with the USDE offering a proposal for new rules – the negotiation starts from that document. After reviewing the materials, I went into the negotiation with two key issues that were unacceptable to me – and a third that developed further into the negotiation. First, there was a proposal by the Department to eliminate joint use of services (like office space, for example) between accreditors and their affiliated professional associations. While this would not have affected CEPH, this would have put several of my smaller accreditor colleagues out of business. Second, the Department included a significant amount of language that would have made it harder for accrediting agencies to accredit new professional doctorates. Finally, and this emerged as I saw proposals by other negotiators, there was an attempt to limit curricular oversight by accreditors in universities with a religious mission. I was able to successfully negotiate acceptable language on all of these issues – and my MPH program was a big reason why.
During my MPH program, the curriculum was fairly lock step, but students had a choice of several possible one-credit-hour electives. I chose to take a course in negotiation. It was, hands down, one of the most useful courses I have ever taken. We used the text Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury from the Harvard Negotiation Project. From that class, I took away three key negotiation principles that got me through this negotiation successfully.
In the end, with three minutes to go before our time ran out, the committee came to consensus on all issues – something that hadn’t been done in a USDE negotiation in over a decade. You can learn more, watch recordings, and read materials on the Negotiated Rulemaking website: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2018/index.html
--Written by Laura Rasar King, EdD, MPH