Press Release

DFI Releases New Report Calling the Higher Education Accreditation Process Broken, Proposes Changes to Better Protect Students, Taxpayers

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) released a new report today proposing major changes to federal accreditation policy to ensure students have access to high-quality, academically rigorous postsecondary education opportunities.  

The report, titled “The State of Federal Accreditation Regulations and Guidance: Recent Reforms and New Opportunities,” traces the groundbreaking reforms that occurred during the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018-20 rulemaking and outlines further action that policymakers should take to improve federal accreditation policy for the benefit of students, faculty, and institutions.

“For too long, education reformers have decried the many challenges faced by students attending colleges and universities while effectively ignoring accreditation and broader quality assurance efforts as a means to improve outcomes,” states the report. “Accreditation is not the only means of realizing improvement in these areas, but without deliberate attention paid to this issue, there are limits to any set of reforms.”

Bob Eitel, DFI President and Co-Founder, added, “Because of the quality assurance gatekeeper role that accreditation agencies play in determining an institution’s eligibility for federal student loans and grants, changes in federal accreditation policy have a strong ripple effect across higher ed for students, faculty, institutions, and taxpayers.”

The paper’s reform proposals include the following:

  • Prohibiting accreditation agencies from using their Title IV gatekeeper role to leverage their ideological objectives as a condition of accreditation or inserting those objectives into their standards for accreditation
  • Enhancing statutory protections for students and faculty to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech, religion, and association
  • Requiring institutions to protect taxpayers and students from precipitous closures by purchasing insurance in the private market in lieu of accreditor oversight of institutional finances
  • Discouraging institutions from rejecting transfer credits by denying financial aid for any courses similar to those a student earned at a previous institution
  • Prohibiting practices by accreditors that drive credential inflation

To read the report and learn more about these reforms, click here.

“The State of Federal Accreditation Regulations and Guidance” was written by DFI contributor Michael Brickman, an Adjunct Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He served in the U.S. Department of Education as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary from 2017-2021. 

This paper is part of DFI’s continued work to provide thoughtful, conservative solutions to challenges in the areas of education, workforce, labor, and employment policy.