Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom

Cortez Deacetis

Postsecondary accreditation cannot become a race to the bottom

By: Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor, Office environment of Postsecondary Education

The Department of Education and learning (Department) is fully commited to guaranteeing that institutions of higher instruction (institutions) keep large excellent standards and potent student results. As a member of the Federal triad, which below the Bigger Schooling Act of 1965 (HEA) needs the Department to work in conjunction with states and accrediting agencies to ensure oversight and accountability of postsecondary establishments, the Department expects this exact commitment from our associates.

“Accreditation-purchasing,” in which some institutions seek out out specific accrediting organizations to stay clear of accountability, has a prolonged history, setting up with scandals in the late 1980s that rocked the postsecondary landscape. That is why many provisions in the HEA and in Office laws offer protections for students and taxpayers from this habits.

The target is to reduce a race to the bottom in high-quality requirements among the accrediting businesses and ensure that institutions can not switch to an accrediting agency with significantly less arduous standards simply to evade accountability from an accrediting agency that investigates procedures or usually takes corrective motion in opposition to an establishment. For this purpose, the HEA demands the Section to assessment and approve an establishment eligible to take part in the federal support plans in advance of it can swap its accrediting company or incorporate an further accreditor.

Modern variations to the accreditation landscape, these as the growth of former regional accreditors to now accredit establishments outside the house their typical geographic boundaries and a new legislation in Florida that mandates public establishments to switch accrediting agencies before their up coming accreditation cycle, have been complicated to institutions and may perhaps also have a chilling influence on accrediting organizations as they seek to successfully do their job. As a final result, the Office has taken a fresh search at the rules and seeks to clarify the process for institutions hunting to modify accrediting agencies.

Currently, the Department is releasing quite a few new assistance files to assistance tell establishments and accrediting organizations about their obligations relevant to these issues. The new steerage details:

  1. The system that establishments will have to observe if seeking to switch accrediting companies or receive accreditation by many companies. This system demands that institutions get acceptance from the Department just before they submit an software to a new accrediting company.
  2. A listing of some of the factors the Office could think about in evaluating establishments that intention to switch accrediting companies. These components, which are meant to guarantee that all institutions are held to high specifications, will evaluate irrespective of whether the modify is motivated by a motivation to boost institutional good quality or evade rigor or oversight. The Section will also evaluate whether the institution’s wish to modify accreditors is voluntary.
  3. How accrediting agencies should really show that they satisfy the very long-standing requirement in the HEA and Section laws that organizations have a voluntary membership of institutions in purchase to be regarded by the Secretary.

These clarifications are intended to assure that institutions are held to substantial specifications, and that an institution topic to oversight by its current accrediting agency can’t simply just look for to evade accountability by leaping to a different accrediting agency.

The alterations also assistance keep the integrity of the Federal triad and maintain the accrediting agencies’ role in oversight as supposed in the HEA. The Department aims to secure in opposition to a race to the bottom and assure that accreditation remains a voluntary course of action, as needed by legislation, and that institutions are not compelled to change versus their will. The Department will proceed to function with establishments and accrediting agencies to carry out these processes and protocols and to even more be certain strong requirements to greater serve all learners.

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