HEA REAUTHORIZATION PRIORITIES
C-RAC Principles for Higher Education Act Reauthorization
Encouraging policies to strengthen accountability, drive innovation,
and serve students through enhanced institutional quality
As Congress explores proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) urges that any policies related to accreditation reflect the following principles:
Promote Accountability. Accreditors take seriously our responsibility to hold institutions accountable for rigorous standards and foster continuous improvement. We strongly discourage the federal government from instituting blunt “bright line” standards that fail to fully consider an institution’s student demographics and unique situation and risk reading out the role of responsible judgment in making determinations about quality. We fully accept our obligation to identify and closely monitor struggling institutions on such factors, to protect students when we anticipate serious risk of and actual closure, and to notify stakeholders of concerns and status changes as rapidly as appropriate
Support Transparency. Many regional accreditors have taken steps in recent years to encourage transparency in the accreditation process, posting institutional reports and detailed status information online for public viewing. While we remain committed to collaborating with institutions, policymakers, and the public to promote greater transparency in the accreditation process, we would discourage overly-prescriptive federal standards in this area. There are a variety of pathways for transparency; it is best to avoid “one-size-fits-all” federal standards.
Encourage Innovation. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act must ensure accreditors’ ability to adapt and support the rapid pace of change and responsible innovation in higher education, from creating multiple pathways for recognition to nurturing the innovation currently underway at thousands of accredited institutions.
Improve Federal Data. We believe that improving the quality and availability of postsecondary outcomes data will benefit students, taxpayers, policymakers, and institutions, and will certainly help accreditors carry out our obligations, including the important work of promoting equity We support efforts such as the College Transparency Act as long as the legislation includes serious student privacy protections and reflects the enormous diversity among the students our institutions serve.
Maintain a Strong External Review System. Our nation’s system of higher education greatly benefits from the peer review process - the cornerstone of accreditation. Through peer review, knowledgeable volunteers with significant expertise representing higher education, the public, and the business community provide a comprehensive and rigorous review of institutions and help drive institutional quality for students. We encourage Congress to recognize the value and efficacy of a peer review system in the HEA reauthorization, while continuing to hold accrediting agencies to high standards.
Preserve the Triad. Effective accountability and protections depend on strong contributions from all three legs of the “triad” of states, the federal government, and accreditors. The Department of Education needs to have the authority, data, and capacity to carry out all its higher education oversight responsibilities.