Leaders of accrediting organizations and colleges have often worried aloud that if they are not able to change the nation's system of accreditation, then Congress or the U.S. Department of Education will change it for them.
But a report issued on Thursday by a panel of college presidents and leaders of accrediting organizations, convened by the American Council on Education, offers evidence of how hard it will be to find agreement on what those changes should be. The group comprised more than two dozen members, including representatives of the nation's six regional accreditors, presidents of two-year and four-year colleges, both for-profit and nonprofit, and organizations that study or advocate for accreditation.
The report lays out the challenges facing the American system of ensuring academic quality and presents six broad principles on which members of the group found common ground.
The recommendations include increasing the transparency of accreditation and stressing the importance of requiring evidence that student are learning. Accreditors should take "prompt, strong, and public action" against substandard institutions and make accreditation more cost-effective, the panel concluded. In addition, accreditors should develop a process that provides for the expedited review of elite institutions that are clearly qualified for accreditation, the report says.
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