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Today’s Accreditation: Seven C-RAC Agency Presidents Speak Out

Accreditation is one of the most powerful levers available for influencing change and assuring value and student success in American higher education.

There, we said it.

Today we, the presidents of the seven federally recognized, historically regional accrediting agencies, step up to our responsibility to help demystify accreditation and explain what we do and how accreditation serves quality, equity, and improved outcomes for students.

Our immediate opportunity to explain accreditation starts with one of those many things in Washington, DC that seem opaque and known only by their initials. Four of our agencies will appear before NACIQI starting February 28, 2023, as others of us do throughout this year. NACIQI? It stands for the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. Authorized by the Higher Education Act of 2008, it makes recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education about the accrediting agencies that monitor the quality of colleges and universities.

The seven of us are the members of another of those organizations known by its initials, C-RAC, the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions. We understand that the public have questions about our effectiveness. We get it: accreditation is complicated.

  • All accreditation is not the same. Even within C-RAC, and guided by the same federal regulations, commission standards, practices, and terminology can differ. Add in specialty, professional, and other institutional accreditors and the variety expands.

  • The diversity of institutions and accrediting decisions further complicates communications.

  • Accreditation is filled with jargon.

  • Accreditation is not automatic. Actions require facts, evidence, and judgment, plus due process. That can take time.

Appearance before NACIQI will be an opportunity for several of us to speak about quality, results, and accountability. While our agencies are independent and work differently, here are four useful points about what all of us do:

  1. Today’s accreditation holds institutions accountable to rigorous standards and acts decisively to protect students.

  2. Today’s accreditation focuses on what people care about most — quality, equity, access, and student success, which includes degree completion, readiness for work and community roles, and socioeconomic mobility.

  3. Today’s accreditation is actively informed by data, metrics, and benchmarks that are analyzed regularly to hold institutions accountable for financial sustainability and meaningful student outcomes.

  4. Today’s accreditation moves faster than ever before to pave the way for innovative new institutions and models of higher education.

Beyond NACIQI, C-RAC agencies will take every opportunity—our annual conferences, participation in negotiated rulemaking, public meetings, collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, and on our websites—to explain what we do and why it matters.

We will do our best to share how our student centered, data informed, innovation friendly, peer based approaches contribute to the value and quality of higher education.

We ask you to listen, and to help us assure that accreditation fulfills our responsibilities to students, institutions, and the public good.

Jamienne S. Studley, WSCUC, C-RAC Chair

Dr. Heather Perfetti, MSCHE, C-RAC Vice Chair

Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley, HLC, Past Chair

Dr. Belle Wheelan, SACSCOC, Past Chair

Dr. Mac Powell, ACCJC

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, NWCCU

Dr. Lawrence M. Schall, NECHE


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