Dear Dr. NAACLS:
Help! My program is coming up for review, and I have discovered that the agreement with one of my affiliates is out of date! I am worried about how long it will take to get a new one.
Worried Program Director
Affiliation agreements are the main area of a NAACLS review where the program director is not in direct control of the timeline. The time needed to write a new objective or create a new program policy is largely the Program Director’s own. But an affiliation agreement usually requires the review of counsel by both parties.
NAACLS does require that up-to-date affiliation agreements be provided with the Self-Study Report. Several years ago, NAACLS only required a sample agreement and reviewed the remainder during the Site Visit. This was found to be counter-productive. If it is discovered that an affiliation agreement is out of date during the review of the Self-Study, the program will generally have at least a month to develop a new agreement before the Site Visit – and if it is not yet done, another month or more before the response to the Site Visit is due. Generally, this is at least three months. If, instead, the expired affiliation agreement is only discovered during the Site Visit, it will only be a month before the Site Visit Report Response is due. Because of the need to allow time for the schedules of many people, early detection is crucial. Of course, the earliest detection is to consistently review the agreement and have a new agreement in place before the old one expires!
But it still sometimes happens… The due date for the Site Visit Report Response is looming, and no answer is forthcoming from the legal department. What can be done?
- Ask for an extension. The NAACLS office can often grant a small extension of time on a report’s due date. However, there is a limit: The review committee meetings have their own deadlines, and materials need to be distributed to the reviewers with ample time for their careful review.
- Drop the affiliate. If you have enough affiliates to run the program with your current student cohort without the one with the expired agreement, drop it. It is easy enough to add it once their materials are in place.
NAACLS is always concerned when there are students at an affiliate where the affiliation agreement is not effective. It means that students are in a potentially dangerous environment without proper legal protection. It also seems unlikely that either the sponsoring institution or the affiliate would be happy with undefined potential liabilities. The ideal, of course, is to discuss these agreements in your regular communications with the affiliate – which reminds all parties of the effective dates of the agreement and allows any potential issues to be identified long before the renegotiation of the agreement.