Phi Beta Cons

Heritage Enters the Fray

The good news: The Heritage Foundation, a giant in the conservative world that has concentrated on K–12 rather than college, has just issued a paper on accreditation in higher education.

The bad news: It’s not as pointed or as profound as it should be.

I wholeheartedly agree that the dismal accreditation process hobbles innovation and encourages complacency. But this has been known for years; ACTA and the Pope Center, among others, have criticized accreditation. How to change the system is the problem.

Lindsey Burke and Stuart Butler sound a little naïve when they recommend that the government stop making the regional accreditors the sole gatekeepers for federal grants and loans. They don’t explain how the federal government would decide which schools are worthy of taxpayer dollars. Do we want a separate federal bureaucracy charged with determining which schools are diploma mills and which are not? If not, in what other way would the government act to protect the taxpayer?

The paper is best when it describes educational changes going on, mostly outside the traditional universities through companies like StraighterLine, schools like Brigham Young University–Idaho, and private certification like Microsoft’s. Bringing notice to these experiments may be more beneficial than pushing for decoupling of accreditation and federal funding, which has been proposed for a very long time.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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