Accreditor Testifies on Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a hearing today before the House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education, New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) President Barbara Brittingham shared the important role regional accrediting commissions play in encouraging institutional quality and improvement while also protecting taxpayer resources.

“I appreciate the opportunity to testify before Congress about the merits of accreditation and the importance of regional accreditation in particular,” Dr. Brittingham said. Dr. Brittingham is a member of the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC), a collective of seven regional organizations responsible for the accreditation of roughly 3,000 of the nation’s colleges and universities.

“Regional accreditation has a long history, as specifically reaffirmed in statute. We believe this regional structure is integral to our ability to meet the needs of our member institutions, stakeholders, and, most importantly, students,” Dr. Brittingham continued. “As policymakers explore opportunities to improve the nation’s postsecondary system through legislation and through the rulemaking process, maintaining a strong regional accreditation system will be integral to ensuring continued accountability and oversight.”

In her written testimony, Dr. Brittingham said, “Our Commission is keenly aware of its responsibility to the public: to ensure taxpayer dollars are going to support students at institutions that provide them with a solid education and degrees that have value … As with K-12 education, there is no single measure of success, there is no bright line that can assure quality. In higher education, accreditation provides a process to identify, collect, and analyze a rich array of quantitative and qualitative data and put it into the framework of mission, student body, and local context.”

Noting ongoing congressional efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), Dr. Brittingham underscored regional accrediting commissions’ interest in remaining engaged in the legislative process and serving as a resource to policymakers as they develop additional policy proposals.

“We believe in allowing for more flexibility and innovation in the HEA so that institutions can focus on outcomes that matter most to their students, workforce partners, and communities,” Dr. Brittingham concluded. “These are challenging times in higher education, and we hope that the reauthorization includes provision for accreditors to innovate and experiment to ensure it remains a robust and responsive member of the triad, dealing with issues and challenges that may not yet be before us.”

To read Dr. Brittingham’s written testimony, click here. To watch the subcommittee hearing, click here.

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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. To learn more, visit www.c-rac.org.

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