Breaking the Accreditation Monopoly

by Anne D. Neal

The congressional wheeling-and-dealing over student-loan interest rates has dominated the higher-ed headlines for weeks now. But the issue isn’t just student loan rates – it’s that students have far too much debt. Whatever Congress does, it won’t solve the problem of skyrocketing student indebtedness until it turns to the structural problems in higher ed.

A good place to start: breaking the link between federal student aid and accreditation.

Our current college accreditation system turns regional accrediting agencies into the gatekeepers of federal dollars. Not only have these accreditors failed to assure academic quality, but they drive up institutional expenses while discouraging new delivery models that could actually cut costs. If students are ever going to escape the crushing burden of college debt, then we can’t just subsidize loans – we need to lower the price of earning a degree.

With the Higher Education Opportunity Act up for renewal in 2014, we finally have a chance to re-shape this distorted and out-dated system. ACTA has offered an alternative to the existing system in hearings; the Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, and New America Foundation have all published on the issue; some in the press are even beginning to lend their voices to the chorus. Let’s not miss this opportunity to put an end to this costly regulatory failure.