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March 31, 2011
Dear COMTA community members:
Happy Spring to all of you! Many of you have contacted me personally in the past several months and I have truly appreciated you taking the time to give feedback and constructive criticism regarding the COMTA accreditation process, as well as making sure we are up to date on what you are facing with the new financial aid regulations being implemented in July 2011. As we prepare for the April Commission meeting, I wanted to give you all updates on some items that have occurred recently or are being researched and discussed by the Commission.
2011 Events and Workshops
Several months ago we sent out invitations to give us feedback regarding COMTA hosting a gathering of schools. We asked questions regarding what time of year would be best, what general area of the country, whether you would prefer the event to be just COMTA or with another professional organization and a few other details. Thank you to all of you who responded to our survey! Although we are not yet ready to launch such a gathering, we are using the responses to guide us in choosing which events to participate in during the year and where to offer accreditation workshops. The results of the survey as well as the list of events for 2011 are available on the Calendar page of our website, please click here.
During 2010 COMTA was reviewed for our continued recognition by the U.S. Secretary of Education (USDE). This recognition is what allows schools to use COMTA accreditation as a gateway to participating in federal student aid programs. Our recognition was continued, and our request to expand into accreditation of aesthetics and skin care programs was approved. That means COMTA accreditation can now be officially offered to schools that offer either massage and/or skin care programs. We had been able to review aesthetics programs previously, but now they are also qualified to use COMTA accreditation to participate in financial aid. If you are interested in adding a skin care program to your current COMTA accreditation grant, please contact us regarding how to proceed with a Substantive Change.
Annual Report Changing
As part of our review by the USDE, our Annual Report format was identified as needing improvement. The Commission has developed a new report and we are currently formatting it to integrate more smoothly with our TaskStream online submission system and our schools database. We will post the new form on our website and send an email announcement as soon as it is ready.
New Trainings Online
Some of our Standards are intentionally written in vague language to allow for variations in philosophy, methodology and modality amongst our schools. While this gives you freedom, it also can be frustrating for some of you wondering what the Commission is looking for from you. For those of you wanting more specific guidance, we are developing training videos and modules which will be available online to supplement our in-person accreditation workshops. Our website is also being remodeled to give you easier access to news and information that the Commission needs you to be aware of for your participation in updating the COMTA Standards and understanding the intention behind the required elements. We look forward to providing you with more detailed information to support your continuous improvement efforts and compliance with accreditation expectations. The new website and our first batch of training materials should be available by early summer.
COMTA Staff Changes
For the past two years I have been evaluating how our process of staff review can better assist schools going through the COMTA accreditation process. During the application and self-study phases of the process, schools receive feedback and guidance from COMTA staff members. Some time ago I noticed that schools often have questions that are really curriculum related and are more complex than could be addressed by the usual accreditation staff review. To address these complex curriculum issues, we have drawn upon the expertise of several experienced peer reviewers, Commissioners, and individuals with both COMTA experience and background in competency-based education.
As the specialized accrediting agency for massage and aesthetics, I feel it is especially important for us to have more assistance available to schools in the areas of curriculum and massage/aesthetics competency. To include this type of specialized service and adjust to changes in the COMTA budget, we have changed our full-time staff to only two people and the curriculum support is provided by individuals outside the regular office as needed. Schools are no longer assigned to separate staff people but instead may speak with either myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or LaToshya Vaughn (email@example.com) for any questions or reports to the Commission. We give our thanks to our former Senior Accreditation Specialist, Robin Polk, and wish her the best in her future endeavors.
Financial Aid Changes
Many questions have been brought to COMTA regarding changes to program eligibility for financial aid. One of the main areas of uncertainty is how the changes to clock hour and credit definitions will affect massage programs and whether they award clock hours or academic credits, as well as how many of the hours or credits are eligible for financial aid. Most of these issues are beyond the scope of what COMTA can influence. The Commission is meeting next week and will be discussing the areas where we do have authority in depth. If you have any specific concerns that you have not yet brought to my attention, please contact me by April 5th for the issue to be included in the discussion. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 202-895-1518 (office) or 202-403-7744 (cell).
Wishing you, your staff and students a Spring full of new growth and opportunity! Please look for our post-meeting announcements in late April or early May on our website.