Framework for Risk-Informed, Differentiated Accreditation

Published May 2016
by EducationCounsel

This policy brief and accompanying slide deck lay out a new framework for an accreditation system that is more responsive to student outcomes and better at directing time, resources, and attention to those institutions that need it most. The framework addresses the core federal interest in ensuring that billions of annual student loan and taxpayer dollars are spent on quality higher education programs and also the need to refine the federal role to improve quality and accountability for colleges and universities. The proposed framework builds on effective and long-standing elements of the higher education accreditation process.  It relies on five pillars that can shape meaningful, constructive reform:

  • Place a sharp focus on student outcomes as the basis for assessing quality
  • Use risk assessments as the key lens in accreditation
  • Differentiate accreditor engagement with institutions based on results from the risk assessments
  • Create a federal recognition process that supports and holds accreditors accountable for  the transition to and use of systems that are differentiated and focused on outcomes
  • Reduce regulatory burdens that are not fundamental to the achievement of core public or federal interests
This project would not have been possible without the support of Lumina Foundation.  We are also deeply grateful for the contributions of many policy experts, practitioners, and stakeholders, including those representing institutions, students, and accreditors, whose thoughtful feedback and commentary significantly shaped this framework.