This policy paper is intended as a primer for policymakers on lessons learned from decades of experience with the federal system of higher education accreditation. It streamlines, updates, and expands ACTA’s 2002 investigation, Can College Accreditation Live Up to Its Promise? At that time we found that accreditation did not ensure quality, was not protecting the curriculum from serious degradation, and was giving students, parents, and public decision-makers almost no useful information about institutions of higher education. Recounting recent stories from the “front lines,” our new investigation finds that things have only become worse. Congress rightly wants to ensure that federal student aid funds do not go to “fly by night” operations. But there are other and better ways to achieve that result, and they are outlined in this publication.