Higher Education Accreditation Is Broken
Accreditation was created to protect students by upholding higher education standards; however, it is no longer effective.
Today, the United States is home to low-quality for-profit universities eager to take students’ money in exchange for an education that is as expensive, if not more, than that of a non-profit school. In certain circumstances, the education they deliver is also inferior to that of other institutions, owing to low academic standards as well as inadequate management.
Accreditation used to work, and it still can. However, it must be corrected.
What Exactly Is Accreditation?
Accreditation is granted by federal government entities. These organizations developed as a mechanism for colleges to create broader standards. These organizations also provided communication channels between colleges to make it easier for students to transfer or graduate.
After accreditation agencies no longer served their role within the school community, the federal government took over to continue standardizing education while also protecting the government’s own investment in higher education, which began in earnest in the 1950s.
Accrediting agencies are now in charge of two things:
- Ensuring that students receive a high-quality education
- Ensuring that the college’s management is of sufficient quality (fraud prevention, etc.)
Accreditation Agencies Aren’t Performing Their Duties
However, accrediting agencies are only doing part of their duty. This is due, in large part, to the government’s failure to provide the necessary funds.
Despite the fact that accrediting agencies are meant to operate for the federal government, they nonetheless require funding from institutions.
The current system operates in such a way that accrediting agencies are accountable to the government while receiving financing from colleges in the form of fees that are unrelated to college performance.
With a short budget, a lack of staff, and the potential for a single lawsuit to wipe out a third of the money available for oversight, accreditation is no longer capable of providing both qualities educational and managerial standards.
As a result, there have been numerous and obvious incidents of fraud, as well as the growth of diploma mills. Corinthian Colleges, which was shown to be committing major academic and financial fraud, is only one example of these failures.
Accreditation must be improved in order to improve education and prevent fraud.
It will not be easy to reestablish certification. According to Antoinette Flores, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, accreditors will need to set minimum fees to assure adequate funding, raise prices for low-performing universities to cover the increased scrutiny required and provide additional legal protection from litigation.
Accreditation is indeed broken, but, as before, it may evolve to suit the changing requirements of students and schools.