School Visit Procedure
EAP school consultants visit schools when they first obtain EAP approval and annually to ensure compliance and to ensure that schools are maintaining standards. Consultants can also make additional visits to schools in the case of complaints.
The EAP regularly visits schools for two reasons: to ensure approved schools treat all students fairly and honestly; and to help schools be effective institutions by graduating students who are well-educated and trained, and who can obtain employment and/or advance in their careers.
In performing its consumer protection responsibilities, the EAP seeks to ensure that schools meet the state's legal requirements for full disclosure, and for treating students equitably. This means that a school must meet basic requirements, such as a school's catalog and refund policy complying with EAP's administrative rules; school facilities meeting local health and safety codes; that the recruitment and admissions process is open and fair; and that the school keeps good student records.
Beginning with the annual school renewal process for 2009, schools have been required to submit an institutional plan – a long-term plan that addresses how a school will accomplish its stated mission and strategically position itself in the marketplace. The school's institutional plan is built on the core elements of effective institutions and sets annual goals for improving the school and producing better student outcomes.
Through its regulatory processes, and in particular its school visits, the EAP aims to strengthen the school's own capacity to improve their internal processes, data collection and evaluation, and student outcomes. Although EAP staff may identify "problems" during a school visit, the primary purpose is not about finding and fixing problems. Rather, the aim of the school visit process is to provide the EAP, and the schools it approves, a vehicle to work cooperatively toward the common goal of helping students achieve their personal and professional goals.
School Visit Process
To ensure school compliance with legal requirements and to help schools evaluate and improve their own institutional effectiveness, the EAP is committed to visiting all approved schools on a regular cycle. The EAP conducts several types of school visits, such as new school visits, mandatory comprehensive visits, optional annual progress and student outcomes visits, and other visits as determined by the EAP.
The comprehensive school visit is designed to be a thorough and in-depth examination (and verification) of a school's compliance with legal requirements, institutional planning and evaluation processes, student outcomes and satisfaction data, financial stability and overall institutional effectiveness. During the school visit, EAP staff will interview school administrators, instructors, students, and employers; review student records and the record keeping system(s); verify compliance with prescribed administrative requirements; examine financial records; and evaluate the school's institutional plan.
A comprehensive visit will last from one-half to one-full day and generally will be conducted by more than one EAP school administration consultant. School officials will be contacted four to six weeks prior the visit to arrange a date and discuss the process. The documents under the "Other Visits" section below includes a sample agenda, as well as a list of sample questions EAP staff will ask. Note that the question categories match the institutional plan elements, as do the categories on the "Compliance and Institutional Assessment" form that will be used for school visits.
Following a visit, school officials will receive a letter summarizing the EAP's findings. If serious compliance and/or institutional problems are found, the EAP will request that the school submit a written improvement plan identifying what corrective action will be taken. The EAP staff may also conduct a follow-up visit(s) to check on implementation of the plan.
The EAP aims to conduct a comprehensive school visit every three years for non-accredited schools and midway through its accreditation cycle for accredited schools. For accredited schools, the EAP will use the school's last accreditation visit report and annual reports as the context for its visit. Since the EAP regulates such a diverse set of schools, it will tailor its school visits to unique situations like schools offering programs via distance learning.
The annual school visit is optional and less intensive. It is conducted by the assigned school administration consultant to assess the school's progress in achieving annual institutional goals, and review student outcomes and satisfaction data. The visit is designed to create an on-going conversation and relationship between the school owner and/or administrator and the EAP. During this visit, a class of soon-to-graduate students usually would be interviewed as a way to verify that the school is functioning and that students are satisfied. If problems are identified during this visit, the EAP school administration consultant may determine a comprehensive school visit or other corrective action is warranted.
New School Visits
Because the EAP wants new schools to start strong, it will generally visit all new schools within the first six months of operations and in the second year of operations. If the school is determined to be operating successfully and meeting compliance requirements, it will then enter the three-year cycle for comprehensive school visits.
While the EAP expects most school visits to be announced and scheduled, it may be necessary to visit a school unannounced. An unannounced visit could occur if serious credible allegations are made about the school, its treatment of students, or its poor functioning. Student complaints could trigger an unannounced school visit, especially if the EAP receives numerous complaints or a pattern of serious complaints. Notification by the US Department of Education, the school's accreditor or another state agency about serious problems at a school could also result in an unannounced school visit.
The following resources provide specific information about school visits.
School Visit Form
Effective School Elements