Putting Students and Taxpayers First

An Outcomes-Driven Portfolio Approach to Accreditation

By Spiros Protopsaltis, Ph.D. & Sam Gilford


At a time when bipartisan agreements are exceedingly rare, accreditation stands out as an exception: across the political spectrum there’s widespread consensus that the accreditation system should shift its focus on student outcomes. As the gatekeeper to over $150 billion annually in federal student aid, accreditation plays a critical role in protecting students and taxpayers by assuring the quality of our postsecondary educational system. But the past 15 years have been marked by a growing, bipartisan concern about quality assurance, and questions about accreditors' role in a shifting landscape. Calls for reform from policymakers, researchers and advocates have been mounting, fueled by persistent challenges facing our higher education system, such as low graduation rates and inadequate quality of student learning, as well as high-profile events, such as the abrupt collapse of national for-profit college chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute.

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