Accreditation Scope Act

The National Association of Scholars upholds the standards of a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship.


Accreditors have the power to coerce institutions of higher education because the scope of accreditation standards includes every aspect of how institutions operate. Above all, they have abused the federal government’s delegation of power to accredit student success, curricula, faculty, student support services, recruiting and admissions standards, and program objectives. Each of these can be, and has been, used to impose politicized policies, and supportive bureaucracies, upon institutions of higher education.

The federal government ought to dissolve entirely the tie between accreditation and federal student aid, so as to eliminate at once the accreditors’ financial chokehold on institutions of higher education. We do not believe, however, that this is a practicable short-term objective. We therefore propose in our Accreditation Scope Act a reform to limit accreditation to an examination of an institution’s financial health and its transparency about all other aspects of the education it provides.

We have framed the Accreditation Scope Act to amend 34 U.S. Code § 602.16 – Accreditation and preaccreditation standards, Section 1. We have preserved unchanged the accreditors’ mandate to evaluate fiscal and administrative capacity, student complaints, and Title IV compliance. Accreditors, however, now are mandated to assess the public and transparent reporting of student success, curricula, faculty, student support services, facilities, recruiting and admissions standards, and program objectives, rather than institutions’ success at meeting those objectives. Accreditors, in other words, now will assess fiscal health and institutional transparency. Students and families will be free to use this information to decide for themselves whether an institution provides education of sufficient quality.

We realize that even a mandate to provide public and transparent reporting can be abused. We believe that the Education Department would need to provide follow-up guidance, to ensure that accreditors do not abuse their remaining powers. Yet we believe that this Act would substantially reduce accreditors’ power to politicize and bureaucratize institutions of higher education, while increasing their power to provide useful information for individual Americans to make their own decisions about where to be educated.


Model Legislative Text


This Act may be cited as the “Accreditation Scope Act of {20XX}”.


1. In General.—34 U.S. Code § 602.16 – Accreditation and preaccreditation standards is amended so that (a) reads as follows:

"(a) The agency must demonstrate that it has standards for accreditation, and preaccreditation, if offered, that are sufficiently rigorous to ensure that the agency is a reliable authority regarding the quality of the education or training provided by the institutions or programs it accredits. The agency meets this requirement if the following conditions are met;

"(1) The agency's accreditation standards must set forth clear expectations for the institutions or programs it accredits in the following areas:

"(i) Public and transparent reporting of:

"(A) Success with respect to student achievement in relation to the institution's mission, which may include different standards for different institutions or programs, as established by the institution, including, as appropriate, consideration of State licensing examinations, course completion, and job placement rates.

"(B) Curricula.

"(C) Faculty.

"(D) Facilities, equipment, and supplies.

"(E) Student support services.

"(F) Recruiting and admissions practices, academic calendars, catalogs, publications, grading, and advertising.

"(G) Measures of program length and the objectives of the degrees or credentials offered.

"(ii) Fiscal and administrative capacity as appropriate to the specified scale of operations.

"(iii) Record of student complaints received by, or available to, the agency.

"(iv) Record of compliance with the institution’s program responsibilities under title IV of the Act, based on the most recent student loan default rate data provided by the Secretary, the results of financial or compliance audits, program reviews, and any other information that the Secretary may provide to the agency; and

"(2) The agency's preaccreditation standards, if offered, must -

"(i) Be appropriately related to the agency's accreditation standards; and

"(ii) Not permit the institution or program to hold preaccreditation status for more than five years before a final accrediting action is made.”


If any provision of this Act, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this Act and the application of its provisions to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.