U.S. House Panel Questions Value Of Accreditation

Accreditors just can't win in Congress. Republican members generally think accreditation costs too much for institutions, stifles innovation, and is too secretive. Democrats generally think accreditation goes too easy on for-profit institutions and doesn't safeguard parents and students from programs that will saddle them with debt and worthless degrees.

Those criticisms were aired again on Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing to discuss the frustrations of members in both parties with the current system.

Fast-changing student demographics, along with new uses of technology in higher education through online courses and the growing interest in competency-based learning, may require significant changes in how accreditors operate, or even an alternative accreditation system, suggested Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican of North Carolina and the subcommittee's chairwoman.

"If standards to measure quality continue to be based on so-called traditional programs and students of the past, those institutions working diligently to innovate and serve the needs of today's students … could be at an accreditation disadvantage," Representative Foxx said in her prepared remarks at the beginning of the hearing.

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