Phi Beta Cons

Hope on the Accreditation Front

Sen. Marco Rubio

The American system of accrediting colleges and universities has long been viewed as a force that strangles innovation and pushes up costs. Now, senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and William Bennet (D-Colo.) have proposed a bill that would spur voluntary accreditation. They are attempting to bring competition to the six regional accreditors, often called a cartel.

The Wall Street Journal responded October 5 with a lead editorial that praised the initiative, but called it just a first step. The Journal would like to see the “untangling” of federal money and accreditation that occurs now. The regional accreditors have life-or-death power over schools because they are the gate-keepers for access to student loans.

The Journal favors the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s proposal, which would require the federal government to use financial information it already gathers to determine if schools can operate. It would bypass the accreditors entirely. And, as the editoral says, “accreditation agencies could return to their origins as voluntary self-improvement groups.”

Not everyone thinks there’s a problem with accreditation. See this column. While it viciously attacks Rubio, this mean-spirited post also cites several existing alternatives to regional accreditation. What it doesn’t say is that regional accreditation is the “gold standard” and schools are spending millions to get and keep that prize.

Jane S. ShawJane 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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