Phi Beta Cons

A Sad Defeat

The American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) was created as an attempt to offer some competition for accreditation, particularly for schools that wanted a “Great Books” or Western-heritage orientation. (It was given federal recognition as an accreditor by the Clinton administration.)

For reasons I don’t fully understand, AALE has been under continual attack by the Department of Education, first in the Bush administration and now in the Obama administration. On the NAS site, Steve Balch discusses its defeat in the latest battle, from which it “lies bleeding (though still, I think, unbowed).”

AALE  may survive to fight another day — I don’t want to count it out, but the surrender shows the magnitude of the federal government’s power when it goes after vulnerable targets. The regional accreditors (and the establishment schools that “own” them) were able to sit this one out and watch the battle from afar.

Balch is right: “There’s a drive afoot in Washington — bureaucratically bipartisan, but clearly gaining momentum — to force our colleges and universities into a procrustean bed of regulatory mandates, mediated, in significant measure, via accreditation.”

Competition among accreditors was an honorable idea. I am waiting for another entrepreneur to figure out how to sidestep the entire accreditation process.

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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