Press Releases

Representatives Trahan, Dean, and Hayes Introduce the Accreditation Reform Act

This bill has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress (CAP), New America Higher Education Program, The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), Third Way, and Higher Learning Advocates.

Washington, February 6, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA), joined by Representatives Madeleine Dean (D-PA), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced the Accreditation Reform Act, H.R. 5768. This legislation, when passed, will protect students and taxpayers by modernizing evaluation and increasing transparency in the accreditation system.

“For too long, a lack of accountability and weak oversight from accreditors and the federal government has left the door open for fraudulent and low-performing schools to cheat students out of a return on their investment. The collapse of for-profit institutions like Corinthian and ITT Tech underscore the failures of our current system,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “I’ve heard too many stories from students who have had their lives upended by predatory institutions, which is why I am proud to sponsor legislation to strengthen guardrails across the accreditation system and hold our watchdogs accountable for providing current and prospective students with high-quality, affordable education.”

“I’m pleased to partner with Reps. Trahan and Hayes on this important legislation – which will increase accountability and oversight in the accreditation process and hold bad actors in the education space accountable. Our students invest in their education – and they deserve high-performing schools that will be good on that investment,” said Congresswoman Dean.

“After thousands of students were left in debt when predatory for-profit giants Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech shuttered their doors, it was clear that more needed to be done to regulate the accreditors whose negligence empowered the institutions to engage in bad action in the first place,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “The Accreditation Reform Act continues the mission of House Democrats to protect students and taxpayers, strengthening guardrails by modernizing and increasing transparency in the accreditation system. I join my colleagues in introducing this commonsense legislation to protect our most vulnerable student groups from the malign actions of a pernicious industry.”

“For students, accreditation is supposed to act as a safety seal of approval. This seal matters, since enrolling in college may be one of the biggest investments that students make in their future. The federal government’s relationship with accrediting agencies was intended to protect students and taxpayers from poor-performing institutions under the Department of Education,” said Antoinette Flores, Director, Postsecondary Education, Center for American Progress. “The Accreditation Reform Act would strengthen oversight over the nations accreditors ensuring every student taking on student debt has a high-quality education. This is particularly important as the Trump Administration guts regulations intended to protect students and taxpayers.”

"Today, too much of the accreditation system--one of the only quality checks in higher education--is in a black box, limiting transparency for students, policymakers, and the public. This important legislation from Rep. Trahan will make long-needed changes to increase the rigor of accreditation and allow for greater openness into accreditors' responses when colleges fall short of their promises,” said Amy Laitinen, Director of New America's Higher Education Program.

“Our current college accreditation system fails to provide the quality assurance that students expect, as too many accreditors fail to hold institutions accountable for the factors that matter most – student outcomes. Our system, as it stands, lacks the teeth it needs to provide true oversight of higher education institutions and there is little transparency of the process for students and taxpayers. We could do more on accreditation to ensure that all students attend high quality programs,” said Tamara Hiler, Director of Education, Third Way. “That is why Third Way is pleased to see Representative Trahan introduce the Accreditation Reform Act. It increases the role of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) by allowing it stronger participation in the accreditation review process, strengthens the Department of Education’s (Department) recognition process by including outcomes data, and increases transparency surrounding the accreditation recognition process. It is an important step toward making sure both accreditors and the Department have the tools they need to hold institutions accountable for their outcomes.” 

“The Accreditation Reform Act is an important step in improving the accreditation process for today’s students by increasing transparency and focusing on student outcomes, and we applaud Congresswoman Trahan’s leadership on this issue. Today’s students deserve an accreditation system that is centered on high-quality learning and valuable credentials that lead to employment or further education,” said Julie Peller, Executive Director, Higher Learning Advocates.

The Accreditation Reform Act would:

1. 
Modernize federal review and evaluation of accrediting agencies by requiring the Department of Education to consider information at its disposal, such as:

  1. Federal Student Aid financial and audit reports;
  2. Program reviews;
  3. Risk assessments;
  4. Complaints from students;
  5. Records of public comment, and more.

2. Strengthen checks-and-balances by empowering the independent and bipartisan advisory board called the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to actively influence and participate in recognition reviews. 

3. Safeguard transparency through the creation of a federally maintained, public database on the website of the Department of Education that includes:

    1. All final documents produced on accrediting agencies and associations’ reviews of a school, including on-site inspection and unannounced site visit reports; 
    2. Substantive change reviews and decisions;
    3. All final documents produced by the Secretary of Education in determining whether to recognize an accreditor with the rationale for their decision, and more. 

4. Increase accountability by encouraging the Department of Education to lawfully utilize its “limited recognition” ability when measuring accrediting agencies reviewing institutions

 

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