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The Inmates Running the Asylum?

Presumably, additional accreditors would enter the field and none would have a captive audience any- more. This implies that the system would not be as big of a barrier to entry and that we would see less suppression of innovating ideas by existing colleges. We would also likely see a reduction in indirect costs, as colleges moved away from accreditors that made unreasonable demands concerning the spending of institutional resources.

TABLE 13 THE EFFECTS OF INCREASING COMPETITION AMONG THE ACCREDITORS

Quality Improvement: Define (Appropriate) Measures of Quality:

+ =

Certify Quality: Inform the Public:

+

Don’t suppress innovation by existing colleges: Don’t be a barrier to entry for new innovative colleges:

+ =

Note: (+) represents an improvement in performance in this category, (–) represents a deterioration in performance in this category, and (=) represents no change in performance in this category.

Alternatives to Accreditation

The above proposals for reform all essentially keep the current system in place and try to reform certain aspects of it. The proposals mentioned below deviate from those above in that they seek to have accred- itation abandon the quality assurance function entirely. Quality assurance is then to be handled by some other entity, and accreditation would revert to its historical role of focusing on quality improvement.

A Quick Note on Quality Improvement. One recurring theme in the proposals below concerns enhance- ment in the quality improvement function. The reason for this is that accreditors are currently tasked with a role in fostering quality assurance, which they do not view as essential, and indeed view as a dis- traction from their true purpose, which they understand to be a focus on quality improvement.

All of the proposed reforms below remove the quality assurance role that is currently in the hands of accreditors. Without being prodded by the government to focus on quality assurance and compliance, the accreditors could focus more exclusively on their role in quality improvement. This is both their preferred activity and is more in line with their capabilities and historical mission. In addition, by severing the tie between accreditation and federal funding, colleges would no longer be forced to endure anything accreditors decide to mandate. Colleges would only seek out accreditation if its benefits were greater than its costs. Therefore, we would expect to see progress in the quality improvement function for all of the reforms below.

The Market The first alternative system to accreditation as it is currently practiced would be to end the quality assur- ance role by cutting the tie between accreditation and federal funding, relying on the free market to pro- vide public accountability.

A compelling case can be made for this proposal:

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