Accreditation Reform

Why are six private corporations the gatekeepers of billions of dollars of federal education funding annually? ACTA advocates for reforms to help America's colleges and universities ensure that future generations can access a high-quality education at an affordable price.

Skyrocketing college costs and employers’ increasing skepticism of the job readiness of recent graduates are testaments to a failing quality assurance system. Accreditation has become an opaque, systemically flawed process that stifles innovation. It does little to ensure that institutions are able to produce the educational outcomes they define as their mission. ACTA educates policymakers, trustees, and consumers about the shortcomings of accreditation, and advocates for solutions to protect students and taxpayers more effectively.

“Our committee members benefited greatly from your clear recommendations to improve the accreditation process and place a greater focus on education quality and accountability. We look forward to continuing discussions about the best ways to ensure quality in higher education.”

—Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

What We’re Doing

Guidance for Policymakers

For nearly two decades, ACTA has documented the shortcomings of the accreditation system: its inability to guarantee educational quality, as well as its tendency to interfere with and inhibit effective governance by trustees. As accreditation reform gains bipartisan support, with stakeholders across the aisle observing how the current system fails to uphold academic quality, ACTA has been forming a broad coalition to support commonsense changes to the Higher Education Act. These reforms include: ending the monopoly of regional accreditors over the institutions in their geographical areas, eliminating the “elastic clause” that allows accreditors to impose additional conditions to Title IV eligibility beyond Department of Education oversight, and establishing a more effective and reliable path to Title IV federal financial aid. Download the policymaker action plan to improve the quality and reduce the cost of a college degree by removing obstacles for institutions to implement meaningful change.

Guidance for Trustees

ACTA provides trustees with the information they need to navigate the accreditation landscape and to understand how the accreditation system can affect board governance. ACTA supports governing boards in resisting accreditor overreach and ensuring institutional autonomy.

Informing and Protecting the Public

The failure of accreditation, and its damaging impact on the cost and quality of higher education, remain hidden from the public. ACTA’s newspaper articles and public presentations remind those who depend on a reliable system of higher education quality assurance that reform is urgently needed. In 2018, Johns Hopkins University Press published the book Accreditation on the Edge: Challenging Quality Assurance in Higher Education to which ACTA contributed a chapter titled “Fixing a Broken Accreditation System: How to Bring Quality Assurance into the Twenty-First Century” to bring these issues to a wider audience. That same year, ACTA played a pivotal role in bringing to light—and ultimately defeating—proposed rule changes by one regional accreditor that would have curtailed the religious freedom of colleges and universities in 19 states.


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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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