Federal oversight over recognition shows poor results

A new study released Wednesday by Ithaca S + R found that changes in accrediting agencies governing federal policy have had a limited impact on improving student outcomes.

The higher education accreditation process is critical to how higher education institutions gain access to Title IV funds, which include federal student support programs such as federal student loans and grants. Institutions are recognized through a recognized body, which submits a written report to the Department of Education for review. These organizations play an important role in identifying institutions whose student outcomes are poor.

The latest change in policy governing how the federal government and accreditors work together came with the re-approval of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. The study found that there was “no evidence” that these policy changes did not make “any statistical improvement” in giving institutions greater accountability for student outcomes.

The survey found that accreditation agencies were slow to implement the 2008 policy changes, with meeting minutes showing that changes in standards and procedures were not implemented between 2011 and 2012.

As a result, the study concludes, in order to improve accountability and student outcomes, the Department of Education needs to increase data transparency.

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