Washington, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to prevent the wrongful intrusion of college accreditors in state governance matters and called for an alternative system of quality assurance that would end interference in institutional autonomy.
In late December, ACTA filed a complaint with the Department of Education, arguing that SACS acted without authority when it put the University of Virginia on warning, with its contention that the Faculty Senate should have been notified in advance of the board’s decision to terminate the president. No question was raised about UVA’s academic quality.
ACTA’s letter to Duncan appealed the recent staff determination that there was no reason to take action against the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The letter to Duncan suggested “if the Department is unwilling or believes it is unable to step in when accreditors act outside their rightful authority, it is time to reform the Higher Education Act and develop an alternative system of quality assurance.”
The letter pointed the Secretary to an alternative accreditation system that received bipartisan support in 2012 from members of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, who advise the Secretary on accreditation.
“SACS leadership must answer to the fact that they are overreaching their legitimate power as gatekeepers of federal funds, while ignoring their primary responsibility to ensure educational quality,” said ACTA President Anne Neal. “While SACS was busy interfering with the governance of the University of Virginia, it notably was ignoring the long list of schools it accredits with six-year graduation rates less than 50 percent.”
“Accreditation, which was designed to ensure that federal aid flows only to schools where students get a quality education, has become costly and ineffectual, as President Obama himself suggested following his State of the Union address,” Neal said. “Rather than protecting the taxpayer, accreditors like SACS are more interested in protecting the prerogatives of faculty and administrators who benefit from the status quo. It’s time we had a quality assurance system that protects the American people.”