Department of Education Clarifies Accreditation Standards

PASS / FAIL: The Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday setting forward clear standards for federally recognized accrediting agencies. In the 11-page letter, the department pushed for standards clearly linked to student success, such as completion rates and job-placement rates. It also encouraged agencies to spend more time focused on problematic institutions or programs rather than spending equal amounts of time on institutions, regardless of history or purpose. This clarity in standards comes after federally accredited schools like Corinthian Colleges collapsed, prompting firestorms against accreditation agencies.

Agency representatives have responded in turn. Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, tells the Washington Post, “There’s an overlooking of the reality that we have this big, comprehensive, valuable higher education enterprise and accreditation has been a part of that success story... Do we need to do more? Do we need to do things differently? Yes. But please acknowledge the strengths, capacity and contributions we make to the higher education system.”

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