The Fight to Redefine Accreditation

When representatives from 150 business schools and programs from across the country met in Kansas City in April 1988 to consider the feasibility of forming a new accrediting body, no one could have envisioned the path that accreditation, whether institutional or programmatic, now finds itself.

The founders of what was then known as the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs went to work creating a process that not only recognized the scholarship of teaching, but promoted continuous improvement in teaching and real-world success for students. In 1992, ACBSP was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). This continued through 1996 when the DOE made the decision to recognize only those agencies that impacted the distribution of federal funding. In 2001, ACBSP became recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) becoming the first program accreditor to be recognized by the Council.

Now known as the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) we help reinforce the business school’s commitment to continuous improvement,innovation, and scholarship. The process of evaluating the quality of student learning and commitment to the educational mission is the foundation on which we were founded.

ACBSP continues to focus on accrediting the programs of any business school that is interested in improving itself, and we accept all schools that are eligible for membership whether associate or baccalaureate degree; public or private; faith-based or not, and whether not-for-profit or for-profit. All with one fundamental objective in mind…continuous improvement.

Today, ACBSP has a network of more than 1,200 business schools located in 60 countries along with 13,000 individual members, making us one of the leading accreditation bodies for business schools and programs around the world.

As a not-for-profit organization, ACBSP doesn’t have shareholders, we have stakeholders and while accreditation is not a simple process, the idea of accreditation should be. Nowadays, the business of accreditation has quickly become a complex ideology that is coming under increasing scrutiny by various interests, most notably Washington, D.C. Lately, there has been a dizzying array of news stories relating to accreditation, some that probably have no connection to ACBSP, but some of which could eventually be expanded to have a deep impact on our mission and operations.

For those who may be unaware, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACQI) is a federal panel that advises the U.S. Department of Education. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, “‘the panel seeks to develop a more systematic approach to considering student achievement and other outcome and performance metrics for agencies that come before it. This comes amid a sustained push by the Obama administration for accreditors to take a more aggressive consumer protection role, with a focus on student outcomes and more scrutiny for troubled colleges.’”

NACQI recently released a report containing dashboards for some 41 regional, national, and programmatic accreditors in numerous areas including the legal profession, medicine, and vocational training. While ACBSP was not among those accreditors mentioned, several notable institutional accreditors such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which oversees roughly 245 institutions, many of them for-profits, were included in the report. Not all the information provided was doom and gloom, but when the Committee recommended that one accreditor be derecognized, it sent a few shockwaves through the accreditation community. The message was loud and clear in that the federal government could possibly move in a direction to control postsecondary education and that’s a scary thought. CHEA President Judith Eaton has openly questioned whether metrics such as graduation rates, debt, earnings, and loan repayment rates of students are even related to the quality of accreditors. Again as reported by Inside Higher ED, “‘The way the data are presented sends a powerful message that accreditation needs to be about graduation, debt, loan repayment

Not all the information provided was doom and gloom, but when the Committee recommended that one accreditor be derecognized, it sent a few shockwaves through the accreditation community. The message was loud and clear in that the federal government could possibly move in a direction to control postsecondary education and that’s a scary thought. CHEA President Judith Eaton has openly questioned whether metrics such as graduation rates, debt, earnings, and loan repayment rates of students are even related to the quality of accreditors. Again as reported by Inside Higher ED, “‘The way the data are presented sends a powerful message that accreditation needs to be about graduation, debt, loan repayment

Again as reported by Inside Higher ED, “‘The way the data are presented sends a powerful message that accreditation needs to be about graduation, debt, loan repayment and earnings,’” said Eaton. ‘While these are all important, accreditation — and higher education — are about much more: intellectual development of students, education for
life as well as work, education for effective participation in society. Yet, this is lost.’”

What does all this mean for ACBSP? Nothing is for certain, but to be sure, we will stand beside and support CHEA and other accreditors as we advocate about the true benefits of
accreditation as well as lobby against allowing government to hinder the success of our members.

You have our promise and I will continue to keep you apprised of this critical endeavor. As always, we are grateful for the trust you place in us.

To connect with Jeffrey Alderman for business matters or just to say hello, please email him at jalderman@acbsp.org or call the ACBSP headquarters at (913) 339-9356.

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