Postsecondary Accreditation Cannot Become a Race to the Bottom


Postsecondary accreditation cannot become a race to the bottom

By: Antoinette Flores, Senior Advisor, Office of Postsecondary Education and learning

The Department of Schooling (Division) is committed to guaranteeing that institutions of better education (establishments) maintain significant quality expectations and robust university student outcomes. As a member of the Federal triad, which underneath the Higher Education and learning Act of 1965 (HEA) calls for the Division to function in conjunction with states and accrediting organizations to be certain oversight and accountability of postsecondary institutions, the Department expects this very same commitment from our associates.

“Accreditation-browsing,” where by some institutions request out certain accrediting agencies to steer clear of accountability, has a extended record, starting off with scandals in the late 1980s that rocked the postsecondary landscape. Which is why a variety of provisions in the HEA and in Office regulations supply protections for pupils and taxpayers versus this habits.

The purpose is to avert a race to the base in good quality expectations among accrediting businesses and make certain that institutions are unable to swap to an accrediting company with a lot less demanding benchmarks only to evade accountability from an accrediting company that investigates methods or takes corrective motion in opposition to an establishment. For this goal, the HEA demands the Office to critique and approve an establishment suitable to participate in the federal aid courses before it can change its accrediting company or increase an added accreditor.

Current changes to the accreditation landscape, such as the growth of former regional accreditors to now accredit establishments outdoors their usual geographic boundaries and a new regulation in Florida that mandates general public institutions to change accrediting businesses just before their subsequent accreditation cycle, have been confusing to institutions and may possibly also have a chilling outcome on accrediting agencies as they seek out to properly do their career. As a consequence, the Department has taken a refreshing look at the restrictions and seeks to clarify the approach for institutions hunting to alter accrediting organizations.

Currently, the Office is releasing quite a few new assistance paperwork to support tell establishments and accrediting businesses about their duties related to these troubles. The new guidance aspects:

  1. The course of action that institutions ought to observe if searching for to change accrediting agencies or attain accreditation by multiple companies. This approach needs that institutions get approval from the Office prior to they post an application to a new accrediting agency.
  2. A listing of some of the components the Office may well look at in evaluating institutions that goal to change accrediting companies. These elements, which are supposed to make sure that all institutions are held to significant specifications, will assess regardless of whether the improve is enthusiastic by a drive to improve institutional excellent or evade rigor or oversight. The Section will also evaluate regardless of whether the institution’s desire to modify accreditors is voluntary.
  3. How accrediting agencies should really exhibit that they fulfill the prolonged-standing need in the HEA and Division laws that companies have a voluntary membership of institutions in buy to be regarded by the Secretary.

These clarifications are meant to make certain that institutions are held to large requirements, and that an establishment subject to oversight by its present-day accrediting company simply cannot only search for to evade accountability by leaping to a distinct accrediting company.

The changes also help preserve the integrity of the Federal triad and maintain the accrediting agencies’ position in oversight as intended in the HEA. The Division aims to shield from a race to the base and be certain that accreditation continues to be a voluntary approach, as needed by legislation, and that establishments are not pressured to swap against their will. The Division will continue on to get the job done with institutions and accrediting agencies to put into practice these procedures and protocols and to additional guarantee strong criteria to greater provide all learners.


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