FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — What if the rules and standards governing higher education changed overnight and no one realized it? It happened two months ago, buried under COVID-19 fears and colleges scrambling to determine where and how classes would meet.
As of July 1, 2020, all accreditation for every higher education institution in the United States switched to new standards enacted in November 2019. And what these 519 pages of revisions alter is both sweeping and potentially troubling.
AcademicInfluence.com uncovers the changes to college and university accreditation and analyzes them here:
Why does accreditation matter? Accreditation is meant to ensure high standards and strict accountability, both academically and financially. Regional accreditation has for decades been the gold standard, whereas national accreditation is where institutions go when they can’t achieve regional accreditation.
Only institutions accredited by Department of Education-approved agencies can receive federal financial aid. Students who wish to receive federal student loans or need-based grants must attend a school recognized by an accreditor with Department of Education approval, whether that school is nonprofit or for-profit.
Historically, higher education in the United States has therefore been built on tough, exacting regional accreditation.
The new legislation, in overturning regional accreditation, makes some unsettling concessions:
- Loss of authority by states to enforce state laws that exceed federal rules against fraudulent or under-performing schools, which now may allow some online schools to evade state oversight
- Erosion of the stricter regional accreditation, which was superior to the less stringent national accreditation standards, by allowing schools to seek accreditation outside of their regional standard
- Lowered threshold of recognition for new accreditors, which has already undercut national accreditation standards
- Less stringent timetables for new course, discipline, and degree approvals
- No additional accreditation needed for branches and campus extensions
These are just a few concerns over the new legislation.
AcademicInfluence.com sought input on these legislative changes from Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D–Ma.)—who is also concerned and recently introduced the Accreditation Reform Act of 2020. Rep. Trahan views this pattern as a long, sustained gift to profiteers in the higher education industry.
“On the House Education and Labor Committee, I always ask what value proposition we are offering to our students.” says Rep. Trahan. “Unfortunately, our education system has been exploited by bad actors who fleece students with worthless degrees and a lifetime of crushing debt. Secretary DeVos has been at the forefront of this predatory behavior by rolling back regulations and instating proponents of for-profits in her department.”
The Department of Education states the relaxed rules will “be less prescriptive and provide greater autonomy and flexibility to facilitate agility and responsiveness and promote innovation.”
AcademicInfluence.com holds that high standards of scholarship in American colleges and universities have helped place them at the top of rankings worldwide. Will these accreditation changes threaten that leadership? Visit the article link above to understand what is at stake.
AcademicInfluence.com is the preeminent technology-driven rankings site dedicated to students, teachers, and researchers. Our resources connect learners—from high school through college and beyond—to academic leaders. Innovators of the Influence Engine, Desirability Index, and Custom College Rankings tools, AcademicInfluence.com’s team of experienced academics, data researchers, and lovers of learning answer inquirers with current, objective, focused information.
James Barham, Ph.D.