Students are being held hostage in Missouri, and state legislators are the hostage takers.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has added language to the state budget that limits money from the Access Missouri and Bright Flight scholarships to use “solely at institutions headquartered in Missouri for purposes of accreditation.” This move targets competency-based, online education providers such as the Salt Lake City-based Western Governors University—an institution that has drawn the endorsement of Gov. Jay Nixon. If the budget passes with this language intact, then any Missouri students who would be best served by institutions like WGU—often students of modest financial means or nontraditional students who depend on WGU’s highly flexible system—will have to make do without state aid.
These legislators are not serving the interests of students, but of regional accreditation monopolies. Their efforts show just how far college accreditation has strayed from its original mission as a means of voluntary peer-review. Accreditors have become protectionist pseudo-governmental monopolies, blocking innovation, sometimes, sadly, with the help of lawmakers.
There is no reason the students of Missouri, or anywhere else, should be held hostage to an outmoded, ineffective regional accreditation monopoly.
As the American Council of Trustees & Alumni has advocated for years, it’s time to break the link between government aid and regional accreditation.
Let’s set students free.