Since the beginning of this year I have shared with you several of my thoughts about the likely “disruptions” higher education will experience this year. Today I add another potential and fundamental change: the future of accreditation in the United States and the ramifications that will likely have on international collaborations and articulation agreements.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation currently represents approximately 3,000 colleges and universities and 60 accrediting organizations. Periodic visits by selected administrators determine if a school will continue to be accredited in the future with the obvious student enrollment and federal and state financial aid in the balance.
Critics of the current system complain that it focuses on the wrong things and that it is not measuring what political leaders and families want to learn about what really happens in college classrooms and how schools prepare students to navigate employment after graduation.
Last month the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014 was introduced into the Senate. The bill would create an independent commission to develop different accountability standards.
The Department of Education is creating a College Ratings System that would assign a number to colleges and universities based on affordability and outcomes, including progression and graduation rates.
Likely changes to accreditation this year and next are likely to include:
- Streamlining the current accreditation system.
- Replacing the regional accreditation system with a centralized one.
- Standards will move from peer review and self-evaluation to performance based outcomes, including affordability and graduation rates.
- A College Ratings System will be written this year and implemented next year.
- Implications for Colleges and Universities:
- Recruitment messages will move from incoming admission standards to outcomes, including graduation rates and employment after graduation.
- Progression, retention and graduation programs and career counseling programs will be prominent in marketing and recruiting messages.
- Directors of retention and career counseling will have a seat at the table when marketing plans are written. There will be greater collaboration between these offices and the dean or vice president of enrollment management.
- College rating systems are likely to change. Who or what will replace U.S. News & World Report?
- Study abroad programs and international articulation agreements will need to be reviewed in light of changing standards.
- Federal and state financial aid eligibility will be changed based on new standards.
Change is inevitable because the landscape of higher education is changing. Push-backs are inevitable and denial is almost a certainty. But the new reality is certain to affect colleges and universities in the U.S. and its worldwide partners.