by Ben Watsky


Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released a new report, “A Quality Alternative: A New Vision for Higher Education Accreditation,” which proposes an alternative to the existing process of accreditation for higher education providers. The report outlines a system that would provide new pathways for education providers to receive federal financial aid. Here are a few key takeaways.

CAP’s proposed system would act as a complement to, not a replacement for, the current system of accreditation. It consists of two primary parts:

  • Independent third parties, which would set outcome-based standards for quality; and
  • The federal government, which would vet these third parties and also be responsible for collecting, measuring, and verifying data from education providers, as well as enforcing the standards.

According to Ben Miller, who co-authored the paper, the primary goal of this new system would be to separate the roles of setting and enforcing standards, currently fulfilled by higher ed accreditation agencies. The separation of these responsibilities would impact the existing system in several ways, notably:

  • Increasing the pool of third-party organizations that can act as “standard-setters;” and
  • Making the federal government the final arbiter of whether a given education provider should receive federal funding.

At a panel event this week, Miller and others were optimistic about the increased flexibility CAP’s proposal could offer to both students and education providers. The report comes as a cadre of nontraditional providers are proposing outcomes-based accountability frameworks – including General Assembly, whose “Measuring What Matters” was featured in the report.