Congress Must Ensure Accreditation Systems Provide Students with a High Quality Education

Jun 13, 2013 Issues: Education, Higher Education

WASHINGTON – As the committee looks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, Congress must ensure that accreditation systems support high-quality education programs worthy of student and taxpayer investment, witnesses told the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training today.

“The Higher Education Act recognizes the critical role that these actors play in providing a framework for shared responsibility and for ensuring that the ‘gate’ to student financial aid programs opens only to those institutions that provide students with a high quality education,” said U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the senior on the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. “As Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in a bipartisan manner, Congress must ensure that the accreditation process provides for high quality education programs that are worthy of student and taxpayer investment and lead to good family-sustaining jobs and careers.”

The practice of accreditation arose as a way of evaluating educational institutions and programs to ensure a consistent level of quality. Accrediting agencies devise standards for colleges and employ a system of self-study and peer review to determine whether the schools operate at basic levels of quality. As Congress considers improving accreditation systems through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, one focus may be on supporting innovative models of learning that provide high-quality, low-cost education.

“Without major reforms to the accreditation system, the American higher education system is doomed to more of the same: rising prices, declining quality, missed opportunities for upward mobility, and a diminishment of the nation’s human capital in a time when education is the key to economic prosperity and civic life,” said Kevin Carey, the director of education policy at the New America Foundation.

With more federal funds available in the form of loans and grants, there have been calls for additional metrics of quality and accountability with accreditation systems.  In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for tying available student aid to college tuition. President Obama has also called for changes to the accreditation system that would provide pathways for higher-education programs to receive student aid based on performance and results.