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An Analysis of Higher Education Accreditation - page 23 / 60





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Andrew Gillen, Daniel L. Bennett, Richard Vedder

the school’s mission—so much so that there were no elective courses at all… president Thomas Dillon chose to complain that, ‘In the name of advancing diversity with-in each institution, [proponents of diversity] are imposing their own version of conform- ity and threatening true diversity among institutions.’99

This threat brought forth considerable criticism of the accreditor. Then President of Stanford, Ger- hard Casper, “argued that the Commission was ‘attempting to insert itself in an area in which it has no legitimate standing,’”100 and former Education Secretary Lamar Alexander “concluded that it was not appropriate for an accreditation agency to wield what amounted to federal power in a manner that threatened academic freedom and diversity among institutions.”101

Another avenue in which the diversity of institutions is being curtailed is for-profit colleges. The regional accreditation agencies have historically been hostile towards profit-seeking colleges, leaving them to rely on national accreditation to gain access to federal funds, with the former type of accredita- tion often being prohibitively expensive and risky to pursue, and the latter often viewed with much skep- ticism. Because the accreditation process is such a significant barrier to entry, some for-profit companies have resorted to buying struggling non-profits in order to acquire their accreditation. Many in the higher education community do not approve of this practice and have suggested that “accrediting agencies should block” this from happening and that such actions should trigger “a full accreditation review.”102 The accreditation community appears to have begun listening to such advice, as the Higher Learning commission recently refused to transfer Dana College’s accreditation to a group of investors because the accreditor speculated that the owners would alter the school’s mission, effectively forcing the closure of the 126 year old private college.103 While it is somewhat refreshing that the accreditation community believes that it should prevent some colleges from having accreditation, it is distressing to realize that this belief has very little to do with student learning or graduate outcomes, but rather focuses solely on the presumed implications of the tax status of the provider.

Evaluation: Maintain Diversity of Institutions and Missions. Our evaluation of accreditation in maintaining diversity in missions among institutions mirror those for the autonomy dimension: exceptional in the pre- 1936 and 1936 to 1952 eras, satisfactory in the 1965 to 1985 era, and unsatisfactory in the current era. In both cases, the reason for the deterioration is the same. Prior to 1952, the accreditors lacked the leverage to influ- ence colleges in unacceptable ways. They were given that leverage in the 1952 to 1985 era, but did not wield it for the most part. More recently, some accreditors have occasionally used their power to try and curtail diver- sity among institutions by insisting on non-educational requirements that reduce institutional diversity.




Maintenance of Institutional and Mission Diversity

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N o t e : N A = n o t a p p l i c a b l e , ( + ) = s u p e r b p e r f o r m a n c e , F = failure.

1936–1952 1952–1985



= s a t i s f a c t o r y p e r f o r m a n c e , ( ) = u n s a t i s f a c t o r y p e r f o r m a n c e , a n d


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