On January 22, 2024, ACSA held a Special Business Meeting where President Mo Zell gave a presentation about NAAB’s recently announced proposal to charge fees directly to schools, and introduce a formal resolution for a member vote.
Since that meeting, ACSA has sent several communications to follow up the resolution. Currently, ACSA has extended the deadline to vote on the resolution by two weeks to February 26. We decided to extend this deadline after ongoing conversations with NAAB’s leadership to give them time leading up to their February 15 board meeting to discuss how the architecture organizations that intersect through NAAB might continue discussions.
ACSA does not want to end accreditation nor do we want to see the end of NAAB as the accrediting body. We would like to restart the talks among NAAB’s stakeholders with an aim to find at least a short-term solution that provides assurance to students that the accredited degrees they are working toward will continue to provide them access to licensure as well as to meaningful and appropriately compensated jobs.
We continue to invite your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and comments as your faculties consider the resolution. The deadline for voting is February 26.
NAAB is funded by the four collateral organizations – AIA, NCARB, AIAS and ACSA—who work collectively to support accreditation.
Since funding discussions began in June 2022, all four funders (AIA, NCARB, AIAS and ACSA) have rejected NAAB’s funding proposals, which consistently have called for a nearly 50% funding increase.
The collateral organizations hired a facilitator to mediate the negotiations, and NAAB refused to compromise on the amount of its funding increase nor evaluate opportunities to streamline their processes.
In its most recent funding announcement (January 9, 2024), NAAB presented a model where
Schools would pay 100% of the cost for accreditation, rather than the 33% they currently pay under the current funding model. AIA and NCARB’s accreditation funding contributions disappeared.
No funding agreement would be signed, leaving the schools unrepresented collectively in any future funding discussions and with no limits on what NAAB could charge.
NAAB has amassed $2.2 million in surpluses since 2022, breaking the terms of the funding agreement it signed with ACSA, AIA, NCARB, and AIAS. This agreement said NAAB must use funds contributed during the fiscal year in which they were contributed and not in any other fiscal year.
NAAB is not adhering to the terms of its tax-exempt status (see the January 22 presentation for details)
In short, NAAB made decisions that fail to live up to the collaborative vision that led to the organization’s establishment. Moreover, their decisions do not align with their bylaws and IRS regulations, and undermine critical relationships between our allied organizations.
What are the implications of the members’ resolution?
The resolution calls for immediate change in NAAB’s plans to charge schools directly, restore a multi-year funding agreement, and review areas to streamline the accreditation process both within NAAB and for the schools. Should this not happen, the resolution calls on ACSA, AIA, NCARB, AIAS, and other willing stakeholders to convene to seek an alternative means of determining minimum standards for education of future architectural practitioners.
Where does NAAB get its authority? Do architecture schools have to be accredited?
NAAB’s authority resides in architectural licensing requirements and NCARB’s recognition of NAAB as the sole accrediting organization. A NAAB degree is required for licensure in 38 states. Getting licensed with less education is possible, but it requires additional work experience. NCARB currently specifies NAAB in its Model Law, which recommends statutory and regulatory language for use by NCARB’s Member Boards. A NAAB-accredited degree is also required for an NCARB Certificate, although experience can substitute for that. (If you want to understand more about licensing, visit NCARB’s page.)
Consequently, schools do not have to be accredited, but accreditation indicates a level of quality, an orientation to the profession, and a commitment to professional education that is not merely vocational training, among other values. For these reasons, ACSA’s position is that we value having accreditation. NAAB’s move toward independence and toward charging schools directly without any written agreement with the organizations that created NAAB represents a radical change in the historic alliance (ACSA, NAAB, AIA, AIAS).
What can ACSA do about this?
Our member schools and their faculty are ACSA. We are not a regulatory body, and so our power comes in solidarity among schools and speaking and acting in unison. We value differences among schools in regard to pedagogy, curriculum, degrees offered, institutional setting, etc., but we hope that schools understand the risk they face by NAAB’s decision to move in this direction.
What does ACSA want from this negotiation?
From the beginning, we have wanted a multi-year funding agreement that continues the tradition of expanding funding based on inflation.
Should there need to be changes in accreditation or the role of education in relationship to architectural licensure, we want a clear and uninterrupted path to licensure for students that does not compromise on their ongoing education.
We paid dues this year that includes a contribution to NAAB. What is happening to this money?
We are fully accountable to our members about funds collected for NAAB.
The annual membership renewal letter we sent to heads of schools in July said that approximately $3,200 of the annual dues paid for U.S. Full and Candidate members is passed through to NAAB. Additionally, we noted that in the previous year, we sent less money to NAAB than planned, and so we were holding $73 per school, which we would contribute to NAAB when an agreement is finalized. (Our October 26 presentation also included this information.)
Beginning January 1, 2024, there is no funding agreement with NAAB, and we are not contributing funds until there is. Of the $3,273 we are collecting/holding from U.S. Full/Candidate member schools, we have contributed $1,093 per school to NAAB (for end of FY2023).
Should NAAB not change its direction, we will work with schools to either refund the money by check or credit their 2024-25 dues for $2,180. Additionally, ACSA’s dues would then not include the additional amount that we would have passed through to NAAB.
Why am I hearing about this only now?
Depending on your role at a school, you may not regularly focus on accreditation issues, much less how accreditation is paid for, or how decisions get made. This is part of why schools pay dues. ACSA follows NAAB’s activities closely. We advocate for schools’ perspectives to NAAB. Over the past 16 years, we have had written funding agreements that obligate NAAB to share its financial statements, and we have had numerous negotiations with NAAB, as well as with AIA, NCARB, and AIAS, about NAAB’s funding and scope.
In the current negotiations (i.e., since June 2022), we have not discussed the detailed points, except within our board of directors. This is a strategic decision because public disclosures can derail sensitive discussions. The aim of the facilitation process was to come to a mutual agreement that would avoid the situation we are in now. We decided to hold the webinar in October and make a similar presentation during the Administrators Conference in early November because we were nearing the end of our written funding agreement for 2023. Moreover, NAAB’s January 9 announcement of direct fees to schools with no offsetting revenue from other organizations forced ACSA to respond with the resolution, because NAAB’s actions indicated they no longer wanted to negotiate.
Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members, ACSA is an international association of architecture schools preparing future architects, designers, and change agents. Our membership includes all of the accredited professional degree programs in the United States and Canada, as well as international schools and 2- and 4-year programs. Together ACSA schools represent some 7,000 faculty educating more than 40,000 students.
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