The Wall Street Journal
Accreditors have played a vital role in making U.S. colleges the envy of the world.
“College Accreditors Faulted for Conflicts” (U.S. News, Nov. 12) gives an incomplete picture of peer review and the organizations charged with ensuring that the nation’s college students get the best education possible.
The seven regional accrediting bodies are staffed by about 170 individuals who oversee the quality of the nation’s 3,000 colleges and universities. Every year an additional 4,000 highly trained professionals volunteer to assess the quality of teaching and learning and the institutions’ systems of management and finance. The accrediting bodies’ volunteer commissioners spend hundreds of hours reviewing detailed reports and conducting site visits. This group includes college leaders and presidents who recuse themselves from discussions about their own institutions and others with which they have a conflict of interest. Accreditation bodies also have public members, including lawyers, accountants, foundation heads and business experts. For over 100 years, accreditors, building on a strong foundation of peer review, have played a vital role in making U.S. colleges the envy of the world.
Accreditation is neither overprotective of institutions, as the author of the Manhattan Institute report suggests, nor is it unkind to competition. Accreditation agencies require compliance and foster improvement that has allowed competition to flourish. In performing their important oversight role, the accreditation system has encouraged higher-education institutions to be more productive and entrepreneurial.
Chair, Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions