RELEASE: College Accrediting Agencies Must Strengthen Student Outcome Standards, CAP Report Says

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis and interactive from the Center for American Progress detail how the nation’s major accrediting agencies—which are gatekeepers to billions of dollars in federal student aid—use, or misuse, student outcomes in judging college quality. The report shows that accreditors generally fail at holding colleges accountable for poor performance despite collecting more annual measurements of student outcomes—including graduation rates; measures of default; and, increasingly, student loan repayment—than is commonly acknowledged.

Similarly, the report includes an interactive that shows how varying student outcome standards among regional accreditors allow poorly performing colleges to slip through the cracks.

“As gatekeepers to federal aid dollars, accrediting agencies must ensure that colleges are providing a quality education and that our nation’s higher education system is truly a generator of social and economic mobility,” said Antoinette Flores, associate director of Postsecondary Education at CAP and author of the report. “Accreditors are doing more on outcomes than they are given credit for. But while these agencies are collecting some student outcome measures, they overwhelmingly fail to use that data to hold institutions accountable and are therefore failing to guarantee success for students.”

Analyzing accreditor policies, practices, and standards among regional and national agencies, the report recommends a number of fixes for both Congress and accrediting agencies alike to help produce better outcomes for students and increase accountability for colleges.

Among the recommendations, accreditors should:

  • Require collection and analysis of common student outcome data across accreditors.
  • Better connect standards and annual data collection through clear performance expectations.

Congress should:

  • Require accreditors to have benchmark standards on defined student outcomes.
  • Create loan repayment rate and default minimums.

Click here to read the report: “How College Accreditors Miss the Mark on Student Outcomes” by Antoinette Flores. To view the interactive, click here.

For information or to speak with an expert, please contact Kyle Epstein at kepstein@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8137.