Written on 18-Mar-2016 by Fidel A. Captain.
This paper is the course project for ED5570, which involves tracing the origins and development of higher education accreditation, analyzing how higher education accreditation has developed and changed over time, and envisioning how it might evolve in the future. A complete introduction is first given followed by a background on accreditation and historical influences and shared beliefs that helped shape the development of accreditation. This is followed by an explanation of how cultural factors affected the development of accreditation, how accreditation has shaped higher education organization structures and the impact of accreditation on policies and practices of higher education. Finally, there is a discussion on the future implications of the current trends and practices in accreditation.
For over a century, accreditation has been the means by which higher education institutions pronounce on the quality of their academic programs in the United States. It is known as “the oldest and best known seal of collegiate quality” (Bogue, 1998, p. 10), responsible for scrutinizing “colleges, universities and programs for quality assurance and quality improvement” (Eaton, 2012, p. 1) and today it is considered by the federal and state government of the United States as “a reliable authority on academic quality” (Eaton, 2012, p. 1).
Higher education accreditation has always been and still is today, a process conducted by members of academia in a non-profit organization that involves self-studies, peer-reviews, site visits and reports that help to assess the quality of the education offered by the institution (Brittingham, 2009, p. 14-15). Today, higher education accreditation not only pronounces on quality but plays a significant role in an institution’s self assessment, achievement of self-stated goals and the amount of federal funding received for some of its programs and for student financial aid (Eaton, 2012, p. 7).
In America today, the Department of Education recognizes or approves accreditors for higher education institutions and “publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditors” (U.S. Department of Education, 2015), but does not accredit individual institutions. In order for students and institutions to receive federal funding, they must be accredited from one of these recognized accreditors. There are four of these types of accreditors: (i) regional accreditors, (ii) national faith-related accreditors, (iii) national career-related accreditors, and (iv) programmatic accreditors (Eaton, 2012, p. 2).
This paper explores higher education accreditation in America. It first gives a historical review of higher education accreditation in America outlining the origins of accreditation and how it got to where it is today touching on some of the cultural factors that have helped shape the nature of accreditation today. After this, other issues are discussed that include the shared beliefs of the stakeholders and the effect accreditation has had on organizational structures, policies and practices in higher education. Finally, the paper discusses a few of the issues that may impact the future of higher education accreditation in America and their implications for higher education.
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