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.

Down in Washington, Accreditation Reform Goes Mainstream

September 11, 2014 by Avi Snyder

Every day, the call for college accreditation reform grows louder and louder.

The Higher Education Act (HEA), the statue which governs all federal student loan and grant programs, is up for reauthorization this year, and policy experts from across the political spectrum are weighing in on how Congress can use this opportunity to bring much needed reform to higher ed.

Recently, the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke weighed in with a thorough and detailed policy paper that calls for, among other things, “decoupling federal financing from accreditation.”

This is a welcome statement. ACTA has envisioned such a reform since 2002, when we published Can College Accreditation Live Up to Its Promise?. Burke properly notes how the accreditation monopoly stifles cost-cutting innovation in higher ed:

Currently, accreditation is a de facto federal enterprise, with federally sanctioned regional and national accrediting agencies being the sole purveyors of accreditation. The result has been a system that has created barriers to entry for innovative start-ups by insulating traditional brick-and-mortar schools from market forces that could reduce costs. The existing accreditation regime has also made it difficult for students to customize their higher education experience to fully reach their earnings and career potential.

It is a wonderful development to see the Heritage Foundation’s well-considered focus on these issues, furthering the momentum of the AEI white paper on college accreditation by Hank Brown, head of ACTA’s accreditation reform initiative.

Another area that deserves attention is the dismal failure of accrediting agencies in actually fulfilling their mission of protecting academic quality. The fact that schools can fail to graduate over 80% of their students and still maintain accreditation is simply shocking. And this dereliction of duty is only compounded by the fact that accreditors often find the time to meddle in affairs that have little to do with quality control, while seeking to silence those who call out their failure.

These issues and more will almost certainly come up later this month, when the Heritage Foundation will be hosting a panel on HEA reauthorization on September 22. ACTA President Anne Neal will be joined by former Senator Hank Brown and the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey to discuss what a real higher ed reform agenda should look like.

Learn more about the event here.

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