NOTE: This download expired May 31, 2018. See message below.
Summary: Accreditation is the process whereby a college is certified with a stamp of approval by an outside private organization. This case fixes its problems.
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Accreditation is the process whereby a college is certified with a stamp of approval by an outside private organization. The federal government sanctions certain organizations to provide this seal of approval and conditions all federal funding (e.g. student loans and aid) to go only to colleges that are accredited. In practice, this tie to federal funding motivates virtually all schools to get accredited, since they cannot afford to deny entry to all students getting federal loans or aid.
This is bad for several reasons. First, the accreditation process doesn’t actually measure educational quality. The standards are either so lax that bad schools qualify, or so picky about the wrong things that what they measure doesn’t have anything to do with actual educational quality. Second, the paperwork involved in getting accredited typically costs a school around $1 million each time they come up for accreditation. This of course comes from the pockets of the students, their parents, and the taxpayers – but if it’s adding no benefit, then it’s a gigantic waste. Third, accreditation is like a giant parking brake stopping colleges from innovation and experimentation. All changes have to be approved by the accrediting agency, so that means more paperwork and the possibility of being denied accreditation (and losing most of the students, who could no longer attend with their student aid and loans coming from the federal government).
The resulting freeze in the status quo, even as new technologies and new forms of learning are coming into play, means we miss lots of better learning opportunities. Abolishing federal sanctioning of accrediting agencies and cutting the requirement for accreditation to receive federal funds is the solution. Colleges will come up with new forms of validation and measurement as they compete for students and their dollars, and be free from the shackles of outdated accrediting institutions that impose huge costs and add no value.
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