Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom

Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom
Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom

By: Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor, Place of work of Postsecondary Education

The Division of Instruction (Division) is dedicated to making sure that institutions of bigger education (institutions) maintain significant good quality expectations and potent scholar outcomes. As a member of the Federal triad, which below the Higher Instruction Act of 1965 (HEA) demands the Office to work in conjunction with states and accrediting companies to assure oversight and accountability of postsecondary institutions, the Section expects this exact same dedication from our associates.

“Accreditation-purchasing,” wherever some establishments seek out specific accrediting organizations to prevent accountability, has a very long history, starting up with scandals in the late 1980s that rocked the postsecondary landscape. Which is why a variety of provisions in the HEA and in Office rules deliver protections for learners and taxpayers versus this habits.

The objective is to prevent a race to the bottom in top quality standards among the accrediting organizations and assure that establishments are not able to change to an accrediting company with much less demanding specifications only to evade accountability from an accrediting agency that investigates practices or can take corrective motion from an establishment. For this objective, the HEA calls for the Section to assessment and approve an institution eligible to take part in the federal help courses before it can switch its accrediting company or incorporate an supplemental accreditor.

Current changes to the accreditation landscape, these as the enlargement of previous regional accreditors to now accredit institutions exterior their regular geographic boundaries and a new legislation in Florida that mandates community establishments to switch accrediting companies prior to their next accreditation cycle, have been perplexing to institutions and may perhaps also have a chilling effect on accrediting organizations as they search for to effectively do their job. As a end result, the Department has taken a refreshing search at the restrictions and seeks to clarify the method for institutions hunting to improve accrediting companies.

Nowadays, the Section is releasing numerous new guidance files to enable advise institutions and accrediting businesses about their obligations related to these issues. The new direction specifics:

  1. The process that institutions need to adhere to if trying to get to switch accrediting companies or acquire accreditation by many companies. This system demands that establishments get approval from the Division before they submit an software to a new accrediting agency.
  2. A listing of some of the aspects the Division may contemplate in assessing establishments that aim to swap accrediting organizations. These things, which are intended to make certain that all establishments are held to higher specifications, will assess whether or not the improve is determined by a motivation to strengthen institutional quality or evade rigor or oversight. The Office will also evaluate no matter whether the institution’s desire to change accreditors is voluntary.
  3. How accrediting organizations really should exhibit that they fulfill the lengthy-standing necessity in the HEA and Section restrictions that companies have a voluntary membership of establishments in order to be acknowledged by the Secretary.

These clarifications are meant to guarantee that institutions are held to large standards, and that an establishment matter to oversight by its present-day accrediting agency are not able to simply find to evade accountability by jumping to a different accrediting agency.

The modifications also aid retain the integrity of the Federal triad and maintain the accrediting agencies’ purpose in oversight as supposed in the HEA. The Division aims to defend versus a race to the base and be certain that accreditation remains a voluntary system, as demanded by regulation, and that establishments are not forced to swap from their will. The Office will continue on to perform with institutions and accrediting organizations to carry out these procedures and protocols and to even more ensure strong expectations to superior provide all students.