Academic Leader Urges Colleges to ‘Take the Lead’ on Accreditation

Responding to recent government actions on accreditation, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities on Wednesday issued a lengthy statement calling for several changes in the much-maligned arm of higher education.

In her message, Carol Geary Schneider responds to recent executive actions by the Obama administration, notably its publication of standards for accreditors and its call for legislative steps to allow the government to set specific performance standards for accreditors to enforce.

Ms. Schneider says the actions represent an opportunity for colleges to “take the lead in repositioning accreditation as a meaningful voice for high-quality college learning while we still can.”

She argues that accrediting agencies must do a better job of publishing standards on learning outcomes: “The accreditors are far too timid. They are poised — with their members — to offer sorely needed leadership in clarifying what counts as quality learning and in advancing practices that help students achieve these consensus learning outcomes. But instead of leading, they remain stoically silent. This silence is damaging — to the accreditors’ future and to higher education’s.”

Ms. Schneider urges colleges to stay apprised of the Obama administration’s calls for legislative action — although, she says, such action is not “imminent or even likely” — because it is indicative of a larger emphasis on return on investment as a measure of educational quality. That could discourage colleges from producing graduates who enter public service, she writes: “Will Americans end up shrinking the college curriculum in order to monetize and rate it?”

Read the full statement.

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