New Fee Structure Makes Fairness a Priority
When CACREP adopted its new Multiple Sites Policy in July 2011, the Board simultaneously decided the annual fees charged to programs offered across multiple campuses should also be increased. The rationale for the increase was based on the additional workload associated with the process of accrediting these types of programs. In addition, the idea of paying for additional sites was an extension of the current concept that institutions offering more CACREP accredited program pay more than those offering just one. With this information in hand, I was then assigned the task of creating a new annual fee structure that reflected the multiple site concept, while also being reasonable in cost.
To begin the task, I surveyed my colleagues in other accrediting agencies to determine how other accreditors structured their annual fees. The diversity and complexity of billing structures being used was mind boggling. Some agencies billed on an annual head count of students, which meant they had to collect new data every year and create formulas based on either per person charges or ranges of students enrolled. Other agencies billed a flat fee per location where the program is offered. Still others charged a main campus fee, but then charged an additional 50-80% of the main campus fee for each extra site beyond the main campus location. In every case, the charges seemed onerous and the formulas complicated. I wondered how CACREP could possibly impose such complicated fees on our 260+ institutions.
Furthermore, charging more per site left me feeling uneasy. It felt as if institutions whose missions might be driving their expansion to new sites were being punished for this action. Plus, it seemed inherently unfair that a small private institution in an extremely rural area offering one program across 20+ sites to a couple hundred students might have to pay more than double what a fully online institution offering the same program to a couple thousand students would pay. So I stewed on this for six months and asked the CACREP Board for more time to develop a workable model.
It took another six months before an “aha” moment occurred and I realized that CACREP’s traditional way of structuring annual fees (i.e., more programs at more sites costs more money) was no longer appropriate given the changing structure of higher education and given CACREP’s increased recognition and value both nationally and internationally. It became apparent that it would be more appropriate to consider a fee structure based on the value of the accreditation to the institution and its programs regardless of multiple sites, numbers of students enrolled, or time it takes to process an application and set up a site visit. In other words, the annual fee needed to reflect the benefit of being able to say that the program is CACREP accredited to prospective students, faculty, and employers irrespective of the institution’s size or how it delivers its program. With that understanding, it became apparent that the annual fee could be a flat fee charged to each institutional listing in CACREP’s Directory of Accredited Programs. This allows the annual fee to become a flat listing fee with associated rights to claim CACREP accreditation, to use the CACREP logo, and to advertise this information in other venues, such as department websites. In addition, a flat fee structure can be fairly and consistently assessed per institutional listing without complicated formulas that demand inordinate amounts of time for creating individualized invoices. It also accommodates the variety of new ways that higher education programs are being delivered, while simultaneously acknowledging that all programs receive essentially the same benefits and services from CACREP.
Sounds simple. Right?! Eventually it will be simple, but it will take four years to transition from CACREP’s current method of assessing annual fees to the sleek new flat fee structure. The 4-year transition to the new fee structure was formulated in an effort to be fair to all programs by avoiding a major fee increase for any of the current annual fee categories. For example, if CACREP were to move to a flat fee for all programs in next year’s billing cycle, in order for CACREP to not lose any money, those institutions currently billed for one program would see a 28% increase in their fee, while those with 3 or more programs would see a 12% decrease from their previous bill. This would be a hardship to over 25% of our institutions. Thus, the model adopted by the Board examined how to move the fee structure over a multi-year period. Thus, it will take until the April 2017 bills go out before everyone pays the same flat fee assessment.
Please note that there will be no change in structure to next year’s fees (FY 14), which will be based on previous billing policies with the highest fee being $3277 for institutions offering 3 or more program areas. And, by FY 18, the plan is for the flat fee to be no higher than $3514 regardless of the number of programs. This equates to only a 6.7% increase over a total of a 4-year period for the 37% of our institutions currently paying the highest fee.
As CACREP’s recognition as a mark of quality in counselor preparation continues to grow, CACREP’s commitment to providing quality service to its all of its programs is stronger than ever. CACREP firmly commits itself to being fair and reasonable in our decision-making process. CACREP also commits itself to providing value to programs that seek and maintain accredited status. CACREP maintains the hope that all programs will use accreditation as a tool leading to program improvement and excellence in education. Therefore, we do not plan on setting our costs beyond what it takes to maintain good practices in higher education accrediting processes. The new annual fee structure is an example of CACREP’s commitment to that end.
Carol L. Bobby
CACREP President and CEO