Committee Democrats: Accreditation Systems Must Promote Innovation, High Quality Programs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on accreditation systems and how they can be improved to better protect students and taxpayers. The accreditation system is responsible for ensuring America’s students are investing in a high-quality education.

“While the federal government and state authorizers both have important roles to play in assuring quality, accrediting bodies are the true arbiters of quality in our higher education system,” stated ranking member Bobby Scott (VA-03). “Their thoughtful peer review process is designed to ensure that institutions are living up to their educational mission—whether it’s providing students with an education that will be the basis for a lifetime of learning or preparing them to excel in a specific field or career. The title of this hearing alludes to the fact that while students depend on accreditors, taxpayers do as well.  Over $150 billion in federal student aid is disbursed every year, and it can only go to institutions of higher education that have been accredited by a federally recognized accreditor. As such, there are huge fiscal implications in the quality and rigor of accreditation reviews.”

Ben Miller, from the Center for American Progress, served as the Democratic witness. Mr. Miller stated that accreditors alone cannot reform the current accreditation system, but accreditors must be quicker to address rising problems.

“We trust a triad of states, the federal government, and accreditation agencies to ensure that students will get high-quality educations and taxpayer dollars will not be wasted,” said Mr. Miller. “It is letting us down.  While no part of the triad is blameless, accreditors have either stood by or acted with molasses-like speed while taxpayer investments and student dreams got wasted. Every campus of Corinthian colleges maintained accreditation until the day it closed or was sold, even as allegations of falsified job placement rates, altered grades, and inadequate education piled up. There are many schools today that can proudly advertise their accreditation while producing high levels of borrowing, low completion rates, and poor repayment outcomes.”

Over the course of the hearing and witness testimony, it became clear there is a need to reform the accreditation system by increasing accountability and transparency for accreditors. Additionally, the accreditation system must be quicker to act against problematic colleges and universities.

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