Phi Beta Cons

Accreditation and Educational Quality

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I discuss the recent study done by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on higher-ed accreditation. The authors conclude that college accreditation served some useful purposes back in the day when it was voluntary, but now that federal policy has made it all but mandatory (schools aren’t able to accept federal student aid money unless they have been given the stamp of approval by a “recognized” accrediting body), its value is questionable. I think they’re correct. Accreditation does virtually nothing to ensure educational quality, but it does impose substantial costs, more implicit than explicit. It also raises a significant barrier to entry into higher education by new and innovative providers.

Until we cut the Gordian Knot and get the feds out of financing education, we ought to find a better means of keeping people from using Pell Grants to purchase bogus degrees from colleges that offer only a pretense of education. Accreditation is a very poor tool for accomplishing that.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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