In 1991, a small group of amazingly forward-thinking midwives and midwifery educators met in Flagstaff to talk about advancing US midwifery through education. We called ourselves the National Coalition of Midwifery Educators – NCME. We kicked around the idea of starting our own direct-entry midwifery accrediting organization. It seemed like a monumental undertaking but one which would allow us to define for ourselves the essential components of midwifery education, to create a vehicle to accredit a variety of educational models and to preserve our values. MEAC was born from NCME. I was honored to serve on the first MEAC Board of Directors and I have continued to engage personally in the accreditation process, not only through the experience of securing accreditation and re-accreditation for the Miami Dade College Midwifery Program but also as a site visitor and ARC member, and AME president.
Over 20 years later, MEAC is an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE). Ten midwifery schools and programs are currently MEAC accredited, some free-standing, others within public or private institutions of higher learning. MEAC accreditation for midwifery schools is required by several states and increasingly graduation from a MEAC accredited program is a prerequisite for obtaining a state midwifery license. MEAC accreditation is included in the US MERA Principles of Model Midwifery Legislation and Regulation. States seeking to license CPMs that include these principles in their licensing bills will have the advantage of national support from ACNM and a verbal agreement from ACOG not to oppose legislative initiatives.
Why accreditation is important
Legislators, educators and policy makers know that national professional accreditation processes are developed by content experts in the field and USDE recognition is the “gold standard” for quality and accountability. Accreditation is a rigorous process that uses MEAC’s curriculum checklist, which incorporates MANA and ICM Core Competencies and NARM requirements for national certification, to look not only at the content of the education provided but also at the quality of the instructors, the financial sustainability of the institution, student services, adherence to state and federal educational regulations, mechanisms to safeguard student privacy, non-discrimination policies, refund policies, student complaint processes, adequacy of clinical placements, support for student success, retention and graduation rates, NARM pass rates, post-graduate employment, and much more. Without the seal of approval of a recognized higher education accrediting body, schools and colleges cannot receive federal funds to offer student financial aid.
MEAC’s standing with USDE
Just like midwifery schools and programs periodically must apply for re-accreditation by MEAC, so must MEAC re-apply for re-accreditation by the USDE. During a recent board of directors meeting, MEAC was observed by a representative of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). She gave us feedback about our process that has made us aware that we need to adjust some of our systems and policies in order to maintain our federal recognition.
In mid-December MEAC is scheduled to come before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to defend its application for re-accreditation. NACIQI’s job is to recommend which accreditation agencies should be recognized by the US Department of Education. MEAC is not alone in facing this kind of scrutiny by the USDE. However, MEAC is unusual in that it tries valiantly to do so much with so few resources. Most specialized accrediting agencies receive significant funding from their national professional associations. MEAC does not. MEAC tries to hold down the cost of accreditation and sustaining fees so as not to pose too great a barrier to schools. Consequently MEAC is seriously under-funded for the work it needs to do.
In spite of these challenges, MEAC is confident that with the right blend of additional resources, counsel and leadership, MEAC can achieve re-recognition with the USDE. They always have in the past. So, what are MEAC’s next steps and what are the financial implications?
In order to proceed with USDE re-accreditation, MEAC needs to:
- Send a team of 4 people to the hearing in December ($4,000)
- Engage an attorney to help plan a strategy and defense ($10,000)
- Purchase accreditation software to demonstrate consistency and proper enforcement ($20,000)
- Secure more legal/consultant fees to help with board and staff training ($10,000)
- Increase staff time to deal with preparing our compliance report ($5,000)
Total cost to MEAC ~ $50,000
What each of us can do
We can each make a personal gift to a fundraising campaign to underwrite these unanticipated expenses. We can reach out to midwives and educators who have been a part of MEAC’s history. We can enlist the support of all who value the essential role MEAC plays in advancing midwifery. MEAC is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization so donations are tax deductible.
The survival of this agency is critical to the continuing development of the CPM credential! Thank you for whatever you can do to support MEAC through this crisis.
Use this link to make an online donation: http://meacschools.org/community/donate/
For more information contact:
Tracy Vilella-Gartenmann, Executive Director
Midwifery Education Accreditation Council
1935 Pauline Blvd, Suite 100B
Ann Arbor MI 48103
(360) 466-2080, ext. 1