Quality Assurance collides with Accreditation


QA

Anyone who has been recently or in the past were comfortable with a school or college that has maintained pride in being an accomplished member of an accreditation organization may be compromised with changes in the true meaning of being accrdited. Accreditation organizations have been the foundation for school and colleges for over one hundred years. Steps to improvement by all accreditation was through an approval process that required self reporting and peer review. Highlighted standards of school ethics, mission, financial resources, academic standards, curricula, support services for students and facilities were the focuses accepted and practiced by accreditation oversight. Accreditation created the process long before government involvement. So when asking the question of who regulated schools and colleges first to be part of an accreditation standard set by an individual organization gave light to the freedom of choice for schools to apply to an accreditation organization without the influence of any governmental regulations. When federal student loans and schools and colleges began to accept larger funding from tax dollars government became more interested in the components of accreditation.  Up  to this time in history accreditation organization was operating true to its mission and by-laws to govern the components of accreditation with peer review and self-reporting. When government leadership became a larger investor in the outcomes of colleges and schools the focus on past metrics were not enough. The emotional outcry from some government officials was to now include into accreditation components of student loan debt, graduation rates and employment salaries. Billions of dollars were being spent in government tax dollars for schools and colleges and there was a desperate realization of how to better review and audit this entitlement for students and schools.

Consumer Sensitivity

Accreditation had always been focused on the implications of better learning opportunities by looking at the financial capability of schools to offer the necessary tools of human capital, equipment, materials and facilities to offer opportunity to the students. The importance of credentialed teachers with expertise in the subject matter and what they were to teach was an ultimate necessity for accreditation to require from school members. Peer visiting teams selected to review schools came from individuals who had been trained and exhibited noteworthy student centered philosophies. These professionals were to exam the schools capability to meet the hundreds of criteria adopted over many years of validation and implementations. Programmatically this was a professional and secure system to measure schools on their delivery systems considering the components of a functioning school. If accreditation can be looked at from the standpoint for the test of time we must say they have endured and grown as society, technology, philosophy and student demographics have changed. It has been a commendable partnership between academic freedom to embrace research, ideological test with the encouragement of imagination for a brighter future.

All of the aspects accreditation from the previous noted accomplishments and accountability made for good sense to give schools freedom to approach education with new ideas and imagination. Accreditation never detoured from their accepted and approved procedures. Accreditation gave society and employers the necessary confirmation the school or college doing the ratifications of a completed graduate that they would possess the skills in what ever profession they had trained would have skill capabilities.

In America with more and more funding coming more from the federal government for all schools P-16 sensitized government officials with the dollar amounts becoming larger and larger. As states began to realize the difficulty to fund schools this inherent responsibility of theirs was gradually being transferred to the federal government by the money trail of ownership by funding trails. In 1953, the Federal Security Agency was upgraded to a cabinet level status at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. President Carter in 1979, advocated and succeeded to create the Department of Education.  This may well have been the beginning of the inclusion of federal government regulations with oversight by the Department of Education peering into accreditation. The message to schools were to receive federal student loans your school must be accredited by a Department of Education approved accreditation organization. Throughout the 1980’s accreditation organizations didn’t see much of any changes to the operation of accreditation missions. The 1990’s, gave to some qualifiers of 85/15 for the amount of cash for profit schools would need to bring into their schools and colleges. Accreditors looked to the government regulations to monitor the accomplishment of the regulation. Accreditation remained true to their mission. In the decade starting in 2000 higher education was now being viewed as more and more as students and parents were consumers with protections from the government directed at all schools and colleges.  Focus was on a school or colleges ability to perform by providing the education promised to students and parents with a return on investment providing employment, salaries commesurate to student loans. This now was a nuance presented and supported by some politicians where accountability added new metrics to measure but superseded past criteria. Criteria now from the Department of Education was being directed to graduation percentages, salaries at employment, student loan amounts and student default on loans. You can probably understand the hundred of years of accreditation mission and philosophy did not fit with the new governmental request for accountability. Accreditor organizations were looking at the maintaining a mission of affirming education quality with business management of student employment, salaries, student loan oversight and collections of student loans. Peer review and self reporting became unacceptable  for colleges and schools to practice. Third party reports and the management and continuation of programs became a business decision rather than academic freedom to offer programs of choice by the student desires.

Accreditation

Accreditation organizations are facing a very difficult leap from the way they have addressed the higher education philosophy to a more consumer business platform. From a simple standpoint I would allow accreditors do what they have done well for years and years. What reparations government needs to accept is the business aspect of what they have granted and implement the checks and balances to protect federal taxpayer dollars. Accreditation is not the sensible organization body to do this. This area if need requires a separate quality assurance system to provide a seal of approval. Lets not encumber the value of encouraging great education theory and delivery with business demands.

I have included the latest CHEA business briefing regarding accreditation.

CHEA Brief Summary

 

 


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