The presidents of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Council on Education, and the Association of American Universities on Friday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan detailing their support of a recent executive action that directs Department staff to ensure accreditors are aware they can apply differential practices in their review of post-secondary institutions.
The Department’s announcement of the executive action came after the three associations commissioned an independent legal analysis by the law firm Hogan Lovells released in April, 2015, showing that federal law does not preclude accreditors from instituting differential accreditation practices.
In the letter to Secretary Duncan, the three presidents underlined the importance of the accreditation in holding underperforming institutions accountable. Yet for many institutions that have achieved sustained stellar student success, the letter noted, the process can be “long, arduous, expensive, and complicated,” and divert significant resources from other parts of campus, even though such institutions’ accreditation is all but assured. What’s more, the letter noted, the equal focus on institutions regardless of their historical performance necessarily limits accreditors’ time and resources spent on institutions whose performance merits closer scrutiny.
The presidents of the three higher education associations pledged to work with the Department as it develops standards for a category of high-level institutional performance that would allow such institutions to avoid needless accreditation when their record proves sustained student success.