Time was when the country’s seven higher education accrediting bodies were little more than good ol’ boy networks in bowties, horn-rimmed glasses and sensible heels. The gatherings of brethren would periodically visit campuses for a few days, renew acquaintances, take an inventory of books on library shelves, _calculate how many professors had doctoral degrees, make sure there was enough student parking. They’d give a college a stamp of approval and be on their merry way. Seldom were there negative findings or recommendations for improvement.
But in today’s new age of accountability, assessment and transparency, the role of accreditors has changed dramatically. As the 2013-14 academic year begins, accreditors are ratcheting up the pressure on colleges to boost graduation rates and improve financial stewardship. Accreditors, in turn, are feeling the heat from Washington policymakers who have poured billions of dollars into higher education only to see tuition skyrocket, attainment rates sag and student debt loads grow to staggering levels.
Measuring things such as the degrees of faculty members and library holdings are no longer good enough. Accreditors are now demanding evidence of financial stability and student learning. Boards of trustees need to prove that they are providing proper oversight.Institutions have to demonstrate meeting accreditation standards at all times, not just when gearing up for a self-study or accreditation team visit. <Read more.>