Education department proposes looser oversight of accreditation for federal financial aid

Institutions could soon have a lower barrier of entry to draw from $120 billion in annual federal student aid, according to newly proposed recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education. The potential changes would loosen federal oversight of accrediting agencies, giving those agencies the ability to approve more institutions to receive federal financial aid.

Bloomberg Government reports that stakeholders from colleges, student loan servicers, and students will debate these changes during January. If the representatives cannot come to an agreement on the proposed terms, the department will move along with its own.

Bloomberg Government says that, under the proposal:

  • Institutions that plan on becoming accreditors would potentially no longer be required to wait two years before applying for recognition;
  • Colleges would no longer need to receive advance approval from an accreditor when making changes; and
  • Accrediting agencies could skip sending annual reports to the Department of Education.

The proposal has been met with some pushback, however. Critics say that while the proposed changes are intended to create room for innovative educational models, but they don’t sufficiently prioritize student outcomes.

“They are saying, Let’s let accreditors and institutions innovate but without a way to measure quality and outcomes,” Julie Peller, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy organization Higher Learning Advocates, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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