Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom


Postsecondary accreditation cannot become a race to the bottom

By: Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor, Business office of Postsecondary Training

The Division of Education (Department) is dedicated to making sure that establishments of increased education (institutions) keep significant high quality expectations and sturdy student outcomes. As a member of the Federal triad, which under the Greater Education and learning Act of 1965 (HEA) necessitates the Office to get the job done in conjunction with states and accrediting agencies to make sure oversight and accountability of postsecondary establishments, the Section expects this identical commitment from our partners.

“Accreditation-purchasing,” where by some institutions search for out distinct accrediting organizations to stay clear of accountability, has a lengthy heritage, starting up with scandals in the late 1980s that rocked the postsecondary landscape. That’s why numerous provisions in the HEA and in Section regulations supply protections for college students and taxpayers from this conduct.

The objective is to protect against a race to the bottom in high quality benchmarks amongst accrediting agencies and make certain that establishments can not change to an accrediting company with significantly less rigorous specifications just to evade accountability from an accrediting agency that investigates practices or usually takes corrective action versus an institution. For this objective, the HEA demands the Department to review and approve an establishment suitable to participate in the federal help courses just before it can switch its accrediting company or increase an extra accreditor.

Modern variations to the accreditation landscape, such as the growth of previous regional accreditors to now accredit establishments outdoors their regular geographic boundaries and a new legislation in Florida that mandates community institutions to swap accrediting organizations prior to their future accreditation cycle, have been complicated to institutions and might also have a chilling impact on accrediting organizations as they seek to effectively do their job. As a result, the Section has taken a refreshing seem at the restrictions and seeks to clarify the course of action for establishments wanting to transform accrediting businesses.

Right now, the Section is releasing many new advice documents to aid inform institutions and accrediting companies about their responsibilities related to these difficulties. The new steerage details:

  1. The procedure that establishments should comply with if trying to find to swap accrediting businesses or get accreditation by multiple agencies. This course of action necessitates that establishments get approval from the Office prior to they post an software to a new accrediting company.
  2. A listing of some of the things the Section could consider in assessing establishments that purpose to change accrediting companies. These variables, which are meant to make certain that all institutions are held to superior expectations, will assess whether or not the transform is determined by a motivation to improve institutional quality or evade rigor or oversight. The Department will also evaluate irrespective of whether the institution’s want to alter accreditors is voluntary.
  3. How accrediting businesses should really demonstrate that they satisfy the long-standing necessity in the HEA and Division rules that agencies have a voluntary membership of establishments in get to be identified by the Secretary.

These clarifications are meant to make certain that establishments are held to high criteria, and that an institution subject matter to oversight by its recent accrediting company are not able to simply seek out to evade accountability by leaping to a different accrediting company.

The alterations also enable maintain the integrity of the Federal triad and protect the accrediting agencies’ role in oversight as meant in the HEA. The Office aims to shield towards a race to the bottom and make sure that accreditation continues to be a voluntary method, as required by legislation, and that establishments are not compelled to change from their will. The Office will go on to function with institutions and accrediting companies to apply these processes and protocols and to further more make certain strong criteria to superior serve all learners.


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Natasha M. McKnight

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