Federal Oversight on Accreditation Shows Weak Outcomes

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

The accreditation process in higher education is important to how institutions of higher education gain access to Title IV funds, which include federal student aid programs like federal student loans and grants. Accreditation is granted to institutions through an accrediting agency, which submits a written report to the Education Department for review. These agencies play an important role in identifying institutions that have poor student outcomes.

The latest change to the policy governing how the federal government and accreditors work together was in the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The study found that there was “limited to no evidence” that these policy changes have made “no statistical improvement” on providing more accountability to institutions on student outcomes.

The study found that accreditation agencies were slow to implement the 2008 policy changes, with meeting minutes showing that changes to standards and procedures were not put into practice until between 2011 and 2012.

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

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