The Forum | Trusteeship

An Accreditation “Dear John” Letter: Two Top J-Schools Make a Big Move

May 3, 2017 by Ted Eismeier

Is accreditation reform on the march? Possibly so. Paul Fain of Inside Higher Ed is out with a story covering the fascinating news that two prestigious journalism programs, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and UC–Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, have decided to voluntarily opt out of accreditation with the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, citing the intense cost, time commitment, and limited value.

The news attracted immediate reaction from reformers, who have said for years that accreditation is costly and burdensome for universities and offers no guarantee of academic quality. Rather than helping to provide serious assessment and quality assurance, the incumbent system all too often stifles innovation and rewards programs for jumping through administrative hoops and hurdles rather than for delivering strong student outcomes. That’s why institutions can continue to post abysmal graduation rates and produce debt-ridden graduates unprepared for the workforce, without fear of losing accreditation.

IHE asked ACTA, which has maintained for years that traditional accreditation is broken and possibly unconstitutional, to comment on the developments. Here’s the statement ACTA President Michael Poliakoff provided to IHE, which Fain’s piece excerpted:

“For too long, accreditors have engaged in a toxic combination of bureaucratic intrusiveness and micromanagement to maintain their status as gatekeepers to the vast financial resources of the federal government. Finally, the worm is starting to turn. This move—by one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the nation, no less—is a sign that universities themselves are beginning to demand deregulation of a broken system of accreditation. Episodes like this reveal significant cracks in the foundation of the traditional accreditation model, which becomes more byzantine, costly and time-consuming every year while producing only a marginal guarantee of educational quality. Accreditors have severely damaged their own brand, and policymakers now have an opportunity and an obligation to create a new, transparency-based model of quality assurance.”

Time will tell whether this move presages a bigger shift as more and more advocates and institutional leaders call for change. Meanwhile ACTA continues to monitor and assist trustees, universities and entrepreneurs grappling with accreditation issues. For more information, view our Accreditation Reform initiative page.


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