A CAP brief in June by Policy Analyst Julie Morgan argues that the government must keep college accrediting agencies accountable to ensure students get the most out of their institutions and uphold taxpayers’ investments in higher education. Accreditors are essentially gatekeepers between higher education institutions and federal aid since accreditation is a precondition to participating in the financial aid programs contained in Title IV of the Higher Education Act, including the Pell Grant program and the federal student loan program. Morgan recommends that accreditors should create stricter standards for quality assurance and introduce more transparent benchmarks for continuous quality improvement at schools.
The low graduation rates at many accredited community colleges and for-profit colleges, as well as some four-year institutions, are a signal that the quality of the services offered at those institutions may not be up to par. Likewise, the rising student loan default rate at many for-profit institutions may be a sign that students are not getting a sufficient education to pay their debt upon graduation. And some studies suggest that students are not learning very much at many of our nation’s four-year colleges either.
"College Accreditation and Federal Aid by the Numbers" illustrates the need to reform accreditation to protect the large U.S. taxpayer investment in higher education and make sure accredited institutions—nonprofit and for-profit alike—are providing a quality education for their students.
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