Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom

Postsecondary accreditation cannot become a race to the bottom

By: Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor, Place of work of Postsecondary Education and learning

The Office of Instruction (Division) is dedicated to making certain that establishments of higher education (institutions) maintain large top quality specifications and solid scholar outcomes. As a member of the Federal triad, which below the Increased Training Act of 1965 (HEA) necessitates the Department to perform in conjunction with states and accrediting agencies to be certain oversight and accountability of postsecondary institutions, the Office expects this very same commitment from our partners.

“Accreditation-purchasing,” the place some institutions look for out unique accrediting businesses to stay away from accountability, has a very long record, beginning with scandals in the late 1980s that rocked the postsecondary landscape. That’s why many provisions in the HEA and in Division regulations supply protections for college students and taxpayers in opposition to this actions.

The intention is to prevent a race to the bottom in top quality expectations among accrediting organizations and make sure that institutions are not able to swap to an accrediting agency with a lot less demanding criteria only to evade accountability from an accrediting agency that investigates methods or will take corrective motion towards an institution. For this goal, the HEA calls for the Department to evaluation and approve an institution eligible to take part in the federal assist systems before it can change its accrediting company or add an further accreditor.

The latest improvements to the accreditation landscape, this kind of as the enlargement of previous regional accreditors to now accredit establishments outside their standard geographic boundaries and a new legislation in Florida that mandates general public establishments to change accrediting organizations ahead of their next accreditation cycle, have been complicated to establishments and may also have a chilling influence on accrediting businesses as they request to successfully do their position. As a outcome, the Department has taken a clean look at the regulations and seeks to explain the procedure for institutions wanting to transform accrediting agencies.

Currently, the Department is releasing numerous new assistance files to assist tell institutions and accrediting agencies about their obligations associated to these troubles. The new assistance details:

  1. The procedure that institutions will have to observe if seeking to switch accrediting agencies or get hold of accreditation by numerous businesses. This procedure involves that establishments get approval from the Department in advance of they submit an software to a new accrediting company.
  2. A listing of some of the aspects the Department may take into consideration in analyzing establishments that goal to swap accrediting businesses. These components, which are supposed to assure that all institutions are held to large specifications, will assess regardless of whether the change is enthusiastic by a motivation to boost institutional high quality or evade rigor or oversight. The Office will also evaluate irrespective of whether the institution’s want to improve accreditors is voluntary.
  3. How accrediting businesses should really exhibit that they meet up with the lengthy-standing necessity in the HEA and Department polices that organizations have a voluntary membership of institutions in get to be regarded by the Secretary.

These clarifications are meant to be certain that establishments are held to significant expectations, and that an establishment topic to oversight by its recent accrediting agency can not just request to evade accountability by leaping to a different accrediting agency.

The improvements also assist keep the integrity of the Federal triad and protect the accrediting agencies’ job in oversight as supposed in the HEA. The Office aims to guard in opposition to a race to the bottom and assure that accreditation remains a voluntary course of action, as essential by regulation, and that establishments are not compelled to swap against their will. The Division will continue on to perform with establishments and accrediting companies to carry out these procedures and protocols and to additional be certain sturdy criteria to better provide all pupils.