Alexander probes college accreditation

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) questioned whether government college accreditation requirements have taken precedence over quality education at post-secondary institutions during a recent hearing.

Alexander noted that accreditation was initially used for colleges to ensure quality through self-regulation, but the federal government added more requirements once federal aid became tied to accreditation standards.

“I think it is important to look back at where accreditation came from to see what its central purpose is, whether the accreditors are fulfilling that role, what is the federal government’s role in accreditation, and has the federal government overstepped to the point that accreditors are not doing what they were designed to do,” Alexander said.

Alexander noted that in 1952 there was a single page of government accreditation requirements, and today there are pages of federal statutes and regulations.

“In our previous hearings, I have suggested that, through no evil intention of anybody, we’ve reauthorized the Higher Education Act, I think nine times since 1965, and maybe we’ve piled on laws and regulations without thinking about what could be removed,” Alexander said.

Alexander asked for clarification in the role of accreditors and the federal government in an effort to determine what could be eliminated.

“The only other thing to do is hire a bunch of regulators and put them in the Department of Education and travel around and see 7,000 institutions, and that would be a disaster,” Alexander said.