• Accreditation

    Federal Policy Priorities

    • Advocate for an accreditor’s primary role and responsibility as a conduit for institutional improvement that is not over-burdened with federal enforcement.
    • Require public disclosure of final recommendations from an accreditation review.
    • Promote the enhancement of educational quality through increased reliance on student outcomes.

    Summary

    Accreditation is a process unique to American higher education. It was developed by the higher education community as a tool for self-improvement. There are four types of accrediting bodies––regional accrediting organizations, national career-related accrediting organizations, national faith-based accrediting organizations, and programmatic accrediting organizations. The process of accreditation focuses on quality assurance and quality improvement through self-study, peer-review and site visits. Reviewers judge institutions based on industry-adopted standards in order to award accreditation, ever mindful of an institution’s particular mission. The regional and national organizations are responsible for examining the institution’s total capabilities, while programmatic organizations focus their review solely on programs of study.

    Accredited status by a recognized institutional accreditor––either one of seven regional or 11 national accreditors––is a requirement for federal student financial aid eligibility. This connection has resulted in the federal government using accreditors as an enforcement tool, further burdening the accreditation process for reviewers, as well as institutions. In fact, some argue that the true mission of institutional accreditors has been diluted by federal intervention.

    Also because of this requirement, more and more scrutiny has been placed on accreditors and their processes. This scrutiny primarily is directed to whether accreditors are adequately determining or reviewing the level of quality of an institution. While accreditation is a mechanism for quality assurance, it does not determine a level of quality but rather that the institution has the capability to offer an industry-accepted level of quality.

    Accreditation must remain an adaptive process in order to establish and evaluate evolving educational delivery and institutional methods. Accreditors need to therefore constantly review their level of standards of evaluation and adjust accordingly in order to assist institutions in quality improvement. In fact, many regional accreditors have transitioned from an input dominated review process to one that relies increasingly on outputs, including acknowledgement and application of student learning outcomes. In light of these changes and increased scrutiny, the process of accreditation must rely on a more transparent process relieving both the accreditor and the institution of public cynicism.

     

     

POLICY & ADVOCACY