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A Note from the President: Setting the Stage for a New Normal

By Jayne Caflin Fonash, NACAC President

Headshot of Jayne Caflin Fonash, NACAC President

In the last two and a half years, our association has undergone an investigation by the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which led to a moratorium on the enforcement of our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP), the removal of three provisions of the code, the assessment of a staggering amount of legal fees, and, most recently, the filing by DOJ of a complaint and proposed consent decree.

In that period, most institutions and individual members continued to abide by basic principles of the CEPP, although some institutions have been pursuing more aggressive recruitment strategies. Vendors have begun offering advice and new services addressing the changes. Our members, as well as students and families, are facing uncertainties in the college admission process with the recent changes in the CEPP. These serious disruptions will likely continue.

Facing this new normal, the Board of Directors approved a motion at its March meeting last week to recast the CEPP from a mandatory code to a statement of best practices. The purpose of the new document would be to preserve and explain the association’s core values for admission professionals while continuing to support the best interests of students.

The decision to adopt the best practices option was not easy, but the board believes that it is the best course for NACAC. Maintaining the CEPP as a mandatory document could potentially open the association to continued investigation and penalties by the Justice Department if NACAC were found in violation of the court-ordered consent decree. Individual institutions also could challenge the CEPP in court if they believed that the mandatory provisions inhibited their ability to recruit students. Companies and other organizations that asserted that the code could restrict their ability to offer a product or service — or even students who felt that the CEPP hurt their chances to attend the college of their choice — could challenge NACAC in court.

The board’s action came after months of deliberation on the pros and cons regarding maintaining the mandatory CEPP, moving to a best practices document, or a combination of both. Before reaching its decision, board members and staff consulted extensively with legal counsel on the risks, met informally with committees for their input, and considered member feedback.

The board concluded that revising the CEPP as a best practices document would reduce the risk of legal actions that could seriously affect NACAC’s budget reserves and its ability to operate. Additionally, the board believes that a new best practices document focusing on NACAC’s longstanding core values could support a vigorous educational effort to guide the profession and strengthen NACAC’s role as the trusted source in college admission.

In recasting the CEPP as a best practices document, the board seeks to recognize our mission to serve students, families, and the profession and to honor our fiduciary responsibility. The best practices approach has been endorsed by the Affiliate Presidents Council and was recommended by the Admission Practices (AP) Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership in College Admission.

We welcome your questions and comments on the proposed changes. Please contact us via the member Facebook group or email us at nacacinformation@nacacnet.org.

Next Steps

At its March meeting, the board also authorized the AP Committee to begin drafting the best practices version of the CEPP, which will be delivered to the board by its June meeting. In the coming months, as the draft takes shape, feedback will be encouraged from the Affiliate Presidents Council, other association leaders, and the entire membership. Our plan is that the Assembly will consider a motion on the best practices document in September at the national conference in Minneapolis.

Thanks to all of you in advance for helping the association navigate these important decisions.

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