Press Releases | Accreditation

Higher Education Accreditation a Failure, Needs Overhaul

ACTA tells "Stories from the Front Lines," calls for reform
July 17, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC—Federal accreditation is bad education policy and deserves a massive overhaul, according to a policy paper released today by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The paper—”Why Accreditation Doesn’t Work and What Policymakers Can Do About It”—finds that federally-mandated accreditation does not ensure quality and gives students and parents a false sense of confidence. The paper, which has been delivered to every member of Congress, calls on policymakers to revamp the flawed system.

“Accreditation does not ensure quality—and it often visits all sorts of ills upon colleges,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “Congress rightly wants to make sure that federal student aid funds don’t go to ‘fly by night’ operations. But there are other better ways to achieve that result—at less cost and with less damage to higher education.”

ACTA’s paper opens with four recent stories illustrating how accreditors undermine educational quality by interfering with academic freedom and institutional autonomy. One case shows how it is possible for colleges and universities to be accredited and yet have one or more academic departments that are weak or dysfunctional. Another case recounts recent efforts by the accrediting arm of the American Bar Association to pressure law schools to skirt the law.

The paper then puts these stories into perspective by explaining why accreditation doesn’t work. It finds that federal accreditation fails to ensure educational quality, examines inputs while ignoring outputs, undermines institutional autonomy and diversity, contributes to ever-mounting education costs, creates an unaccountable (and federally-mandated) bureaucracy, and perpetuates a conflicted, closed, and clubby system. ACTA calls on policymakers to:

— Break the link between federal student aid and accreditation.

— Make accreditors prove their worth.

— Break the accreditor monopoly.

— Ensure student achievement.

— Tell the public what it deserves to know.

— Stop the homogenization of higher education.

— Create a consumer-friendly alternative.

— Don’t replicate a failed model.

— Reduce the cost of higher education.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a bipartisan, national nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports including Can College Accreditation Live Up to Its Promise?, The Vanishing Shakespeare, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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