ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

The six regional agencies that accredit the vast majority of America’s non-profit colleges and universities have miserably failed to ensure educational quality but continue to control access to federal student aid.

Dozens of institutions that graduate less than one in every four students and which have high levels of default on student loans continue to enjoy full accreditation and full access to taxpayer money. While neglecting to ensure academic quality, the regional accrediting bodies interfere with the authority of governing boards and create barriers for innovative non-traditional institutions to operate. Although accreditors’ demands may have little to do with academic quality, the staff time and financial cost of compliance can be astronomical. ACTA is working hard to protect the public and improve higher education by reinventing accreditation.

WHAT WE ARE DOING

Guidance for Policymakers

ACTA has a long history of advocacy for accreditation reform. In September of 2013, we partnered with the American Enterprise Institute to launch our report, Protecting Students and Taxpayers: The Federal Government’s Failed Regulatory Approach and Steps for Reform, The white paper discusses the failure of the higher education accreditation system to perform its intended purpose of ensuring academic quality and, recognizing calls for higher education reform echoed by President Barack Obama and Senator Marco Rubio alike, makes several key recommendations intended to increase student access and promote academic excellence. Working with AEI, we also hosted a panel addressing the need for accreditation reform. 

In June of 2013, ACTA president Anne Neal testified before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, part of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, on “Keeping College Within Reach: Discussing Program Quality through Accreditation.” The hearing examined the effectiveness of federal accreditation of colleges and universities. In 2006, Ms. Neal gave testimony to Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, advising the Commissioners of the damage that the system of accreditation was causing to higher education quality and efficiency. Since 2006, Anne Neal has served on the federal National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), where she is a strong advocate for reform of accreditation. With her colleague, former Lafayette College president Arthur Rothkopf, she introduced an alternative to the existing accreditation system, calling for a simplified quality assurance process that would require financial stability and transparent information. The alternative received bipartisan support from the Committee and has been submitted to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a package of recommendations regarding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 2013.

In 2012 ACTA launched a campaign to reform accreditation, under the leadership of former U.S. Senator and University of Colorado President Hank Brown, long a champion of accreditation reform. He and Rick O’Donnell, former head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, will spearhead this multi-year effort. In place of the existing, cumbersome system, ACTA advocates an efficient, transparent system of fiscal and academic metrics to inform the public and ensure fiscal accountability.

Guidance for Trustees

ACTA has taken these accreditation issues to trustees. We have spoken out in the press and in letters, most recently, advising Penn State’s beleaguered trustees to resist inappropriate interference from accrediting agencies and to take up their fiduciary responsibilities. We regularly remind trustees to monitor the cost of accreditation for their institutions.

Informing and Protecting the Public

The current system has continued in part because it not well-understood by 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. ACTA stood firm—and won—against the National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), when its proposed accrediting standards sought to deny the academic freedom of aspiring teachers. In 2010 ACTA wrote to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to advise him that current policies that restricted transfer credit from two-year and for-profit institutions—many of these restrictions enforced by the regulations of regional accreditors—were costing the public and taxpayers large sums without any demonstrable quality assurance. The U.S. Department of Education has convened a task force to consider ACTA’s recommendations.

Resources

Accreditation

October 2013by ACTA's Institute for Effective Governance |  

Today, virtually all colleges and universities in the United States are accredited (sometimes by more than one accrediting body). Yet there is widespread—and justifiable—concern that college...

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Protecting Students and Taxpayers

September 2013by Hank Brown |  

When it comes to federal funding of higher education, the government's approach to quality assurance and consumer protection is a public policy and regulatory failure by almost any measure....

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Alternative to NACIQI Draft Final Report

April 2012by Anne D. Nealby Arthur Rothkopf |  

ACTA's president Anne D. Neal and president emeritus of Lafayette College Arthur Rothkopf submit an alternative to the draft final report of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality...

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Press

Federal advisory board votes to kick out the nation’s largest college accreditor

Washington Post
June 24, 2016 |  

An independent advisory board voted Thursday to bar the largest national accreditation agency from serving as the gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid,...

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Groups Push For Accreditation Reform

Daily Caller
September 23, 2014 |  

Several education groups are pushing for a major reform in how the United States handles school accreditation, arguing the current system raises costs for both schools and students while allowing...

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Ideas for Overhauling Accreditation Take Shape as Reauthorization Talk Begins

Chronicle of Higher Education
September 30, 2013 |  

A new report from a former president of the University of Colorado has set the stage for a vigorous debate on the future of higher-education accreditation. That topic could be a central focus of...

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