Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, president of the accreditor industry group, is optimistic new oversight rules can help institutions innovate.
College accreditation is in the spotlight. New rules from the U.S. Department of Education on how college oversight is handled went into effect this summer, and higher education professionals are split on their likely impact. While supporters say they encourage innovation, critics contend they give colleges more cover from scrutiny.
One of the most significant changes the rules bring about is the elimination of historical boundaries for regional accreditation, the most prestigious form of surveillance in U.S. higher education. They also loosen compliance standards for accreditors and make it easier for new accreditors to emerge.
Meanwhile, institutions are dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which triggered rapid changes to their instructional models and highlighted inequities in students’ access to college. The Education Department has allowed accreditors to offer colleges temporary flexibility to adapt. It’s a move some in the sector have argued that, when combined with the latest regulatory flexibilities, could open the door for new modes of instruction to take hold.