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ICYMI: Regional Accreditors Testify on Strengthening Accreditation and Encouraging Innovation

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

Two members of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) recently offered testimony on issues that will be discussed in the U.S. Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking. Announced in July, the negotiated rulemaking will examine regulatory burdens in postsecondary education, including several policies that relate to accreditation.

On September 13, C-RAC chair and president of the Higher Learning Commission Barbara Gellman-Danley testified at a Department of Education hearing held at Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Ms. Gellman-Danley’s comments stressed the importance of using this negotiated rulemaking to strengthen the accreditation system:

Remove the shackles of old regulations that [accreditors] are responsible for enforcing, even if we know they have little to do with our main mission – quality assurance. Re-examine the credit hour. Allow us to try experimental, pilot programs without going through arduous approvals at the federal and state level, while also protecting our consumers. Let us move forward in new ways to serve these students, and if something fails, treat that as a learning experience without fear of punishment… Be courageous. Create an environment where innovation can take place for the sake of our students and the future economic and intellectual growth in this country and globally. See beyond that horizon, looking forward to new ways we can increase educational attainment.

On September 6, WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) president Jamienne S. Studley testified at a Department of Education hearing in Washington, D.C. Ms. Studley spoke about the role accrediting commissions play in supporting institutional innovation and offered insight on potentially beneficial regulatory changes:

[Accreditors] are doing an increasingly good job of taking outcomes information into account to support both our quality assurance and improvement functions. No bright lines, but sharpened questions and clearer expectations…Presidents in my region tell me that accreditation doesn’t hinder their ability to introduce new programs and approaches. Some regulatory improvements could help promote innovation, such as giving accreditors room to decide when a site visit is necessary to judge a new program or other substantive change. And let’s be honest: we have regulatory speed bumps where there have been crashes and injuries. In those cases, we are right to choose caution over speed.

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions also recently submitted a comment letter to the Department of Education with feedback on policies that will be explored in the negotiated rulemaking. Read the comment letter and press release.

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The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions is a collective of seven regional organizations responsible for the accreditation of roughly 3,000 of the nation’s colleges and universities.

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