Accreditation Council Sets Stricter Standards for Recognizing Accreditors

September 28, 2010

As Congress and the Education Department turn up the heat on accrediting agencies to be more stringent in monitoring colleges and universities,. a nongovernmental group is also raising its requirements for recognizing accreditors.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation represents some 3,000 postsecondary institutions and advocates for the self-regulation that accreditors and colleges use to ensure academic quality. The council also sets standards for 60 accrediting organizations that seek to be recognized by the council, including the six regional and seven national agencies that monitor institutions' quality and serve as gatekeepers to federal financial aid for colleges. While recognition by the council is not required for any of the accreditors, it amounts to a sort of seal of approval from the member institutions.

On Tuesday the council released revisions to its policy for recognizing accrediting groups, including requiring accreditors to disclose the specific reasons for denying or withdrawing their approval of a college. The council also will now require accrediting bodies not only to have adequate staff members and resources to monitor their member institutions but also to have financial independence from any larger organizations of which the accreditor is a part.

Under the new policies, the council can demand a meeting with the accreditor if it or one of its member colleges has a "major difficulty" in governance or operations.

The council is also asking accreditors to apply the same standards to international programs and institutions that it applies to campuses in the United States.