May 25, 2022
Measuring the Impacts of Federal Oversight of Accreditation
Since the 1960s, the accreditation process and accreditors have played an important gatekeeping function for institutions’ access to federal student financial aid. Recognizing this role, Congress and the federal Department of Education (ED) have introduced and modified federal requirements and oversight of accreditors to ensure that these gatekeepers are protecting students and public dollars. While these federal interventions have clearly shifted the ways accreditors operate and interact with the federal government, there has been little research conducted on…
May 25, 2022
Overseeing the Overseers
Can Federal Oversight of Accreditation Improve Student Outcomes?
Since the passage of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, the federal government has relied on the accreditation process to ensure quality at postsecondary institutions receiving federal dollars. Ithaka S+R began a pilot study in 2021 to assess the feasibility of using publicly available data on the accreditation process and outcomes to evaluate the impact of federal oversight mechanisms on institutional and student outcomes. In this report, we provide an overview of accreditation in the US.
November 10, 2017
For-Profit Colleges – What Went Wrong?
Mention the phrase “for-profit college” and I can’t help but immediately picture a single parent working two jobs while attending college at night, after the kids are asleep, saddled with debt and no prospects for improving their employment conditions or earnings despite their best efforts. Vivid in my mind are the painful stories of young low-income mothers I interviewed during my graduate studies, whose economic, family, and personal decisions (and opportunities) were often dictated by their (relatively exorbitant) loan repayments…
November 6, 2017
The Tax Status of Colleges: Who Cares?
Across several survey items, the respondents to Ithaka S+R’s Higher Ed Insights Spring 2017 Survey rated Obama administration policies and enforcement actions against for-profit institutions as having a high and positive impact. In my view, policies such as the gainful employment rule and actions such as revoking the accreditation authority of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for revoking Title IV eligibility for students attending ITT Tech were understandable, on the whole, but had serious shortcomings.
October 31, 2017
In New Survey, Higher Ed Insiders Share Concerns about Impact of Federal Policy Changes under President Trump
In May and June of 2017, we surveyed the Ithaka S+R Higher Ed Insights panel—164 senior leaders and experts at colleges and universities, associations, research groups, and philanthropies—about the state of higher education and the likely impact of recent events and trends. (You can learn more about our Higher Ed Insights Project here.) Today, in “Higher Ed Insights: Results of the Spring 2017 Survey,” Rayane Alamuddin, Daniel Rossman, and I report the findings of that survey. While respondents…
October 31, 2017
Higher Ed Insights: Results of the Spring 2017 Survey
In May and June of 2017, we surveyed the Ithaka S+R Higher Ed Insights panel—164 senior leaders and experts at colleges and universities, associations, research groups, and philanthropies—about the state of higher education and the likely impact of recent events and trends. While respondents were generally positive about the state of undergraduate education in the United States, they expressed urgency about the need to improve degree completion rates, the quality of student learning, and affordability for students. Respondents’ reactions to…
June 8, 2017
How to Assure Quality in Higher Education?
Focus on Innovation, Minimum Standards, and Continuous Improvement
The U.S. quality assurance system—focused mainly on accreditation as a threshold for federal financial aid eligibility—has done a poor job of assuring quality. Barely 60 percent of first-time students complete a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent complete an associate’s degree at the institution where they started. These overall results mask a wide range of outcomes across institutions. As a result, many students, parents, and policymakers question the value of their massive investment in postsecondary education. Can the accreditation process be…
June 8, 2017
Quality Assurance in U.S. Higher Education
The Current Landscape and Principles for Reform
The American higher education sector is diverse and creative. In 2014-15, the sector produced over 1 million associate’s degrees, nearly 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees, over 758,000 master’s degrees, and over 178,000 doctoral degrees. The world leader in innovation for decades, the sector continues to produce cutting edge research and contributes mightily to the American economy. Recent estimates concluded that the United States spends a larger percentage of GDP on higher education than any other country. But…
May 13, 2016
How Should Higher Education be Regulated?
The Case for Management-Based Regulation
For much of the 20th Century, the government relied on a command-and-control form of regulation in their oversight of organizations across many sectors. In other words, the government mandated that these regulated entities undertake specific activities and then monitored their compliance. In the late 20th Century, reaction to the burdens and inefficacy of command and control led to a shift in some areas to performance-based regulation. Under this model, the government determines targets for outcomes and regulated entities choose the…
March 14, 2016
The Problems of Accreditation of For-Profit Institutions
And a Step to Improve It
In my most recent blog post, I compared financial aid data for the 2013-14 academic year with that of previous years. One interesting finding was that the share of Pell enrollments at for-profit institutions has declined by 22 percent since it peaked in 2009-10. As explained in the blog, this decline coincides with the federal government’s efforts to crack down on students’ low-value use of Pell grants, specifically at for-profit institutions. For-profit programs, according to the federal Department of…