The federal government’s hold over higher education accreditation may be growing shaky, and that’s great news for students. The Heritage Foundation reports that Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has introduced a new proposal in the House under which states could allow virtually any organization—from colleges to companies to nonprofits—to “credential individual courses.” As of now, only the federal government and federally sanctioned regional bodies can accredit institutions and programs. But the new proposal would offer greater flexibility for students:
From the student’s perspective, decoupling federal financing from accreditation—the heart of the [Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act]—means being able to create a totally customized higher education experience. A student might spend a semester in a traditional college setting followed by an apprenticeship at Microsoft, and then spend time taking individual courses approved by a variety of organizations. Although a traditional bachelor’s degree still might be the preferred route for many students, this alternative route would enable students to craft a customized transcript they could present to employers as soon as they have mastered the skills and competencies employers value, and importantly, to do so without accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Changes to the accreditation laws will be staunchly resisted by traditional colleges and universities, which want to keep their protection racket in place. But their influence may be waning. If it does, transforming the accreditation process could be the first step in a broader transformation of higher ed.