Institutional Accreditation: A Standard Under Attack? Misunderstood? Ignored?

February 15th, 2019

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Last year, the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is an Endorsed Member, hosted its annual Symposium in Orlando, FL and tackled the issue of institutional Accreditation.  Those of us in the credential evaluation field live and breath accreditation. Determining an international institution’s recognition status is the first step any junior or seasoned credential evaluator takes. It is what sets an international school or institution of higher education on a par with its accredited counterpart in the U.S. There are many types of accreditation in the U.S. and I will not go into each of them in this blog (CHEA would be a good source to visit for details), but the one we focus on and use as the standard is regional accreditation.

Unlike most countries where the Ministry of Education is responsible for the oversight and recognition of schools and institutions of higher education, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) does not have this authority. It does, however, recognize accreditation boards and provides this information to the public. In most countries, when evaluating international credentials, we look to see if the studies were completed at an institution that is formally recognized and endorsed by the country’s Ministry of Education (MOE). I’m over simplifying but as I said, in most cases, we look for MOE recognition.

Lately, I see there’s a disconnect between educators, school/college counselors, and admissions professionals in relation to accreditation. In some cases, it’s an afterthought or entirely forgotten. As if accreditation is a bad thing, a nuisance. I even find that many, even those in the education sector, are unfamiliar with what is meant by accreditation and the different types of accreditation available in the U.S., especially regional. For example, I recently read a question in a forum intended for admissions officers at local colleges here in Southern California about a “university” in Downtown Los Angeles. The individual was asking whether anyone had heard about it and did not even consider checking the list of regionally accredited institutions CHEA has available on its website. A quick online search found this so-called university to be nothing but a diploma mill with a defunct website.

Everyone involved in education or counseling students for further education must, I repeat, must keep this link handy for reference.  The USDE also dedicates a page to Diploma Mills and Accreditation. Many of you who follow my posts on this blog know that I frequently write about Diploma and Accreditation Mills, warning fellow credential evaluators, educators, admissions officers, counselor, and prospective students against the perils of falling prey to these fraudulent entities.

Every day, I come across news of yet another individual holding a prominent position in government, whether here in the U.S. or overseas who has been discovered to have a degree from a diploma mill or misrepresented him/herself as a degree holder from an institution never attended. Examples abound, but I’ll share a couple in this blog. First, there is the Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia who had falsely claimed to have a degree from the prestigious University of Cambridge in the UK. He has now admitted that he had misspoken and his degree is from Cambridge International University in the U.S., which is still dubious in status given it lacks regional accreditation by one of the accreditation boards recognized by the US Department of Education. A little digging on the Internet shows it to be yet another diploma mill. Read this piece and you’ll see all the red flags. Click here.

Next, we have Nigeria where the Minister of Education announced last month that the government will shut down and demolish 68, I repeat, 68, institutions discovered to be operating illegally and without accreditation and will apprehend and prosecute their owners.  What is disconcerting is the following quote in the article posted by University World News: “Some academics are asking if closing down “illegal” universities is the answer, in view of the inability of Nigeria’s current legally-established universities to absorb the number of school leavers wanting places.”  Begs the question, have we slipped so far down the slippery slope of mediocrity that attending a sub-standard “university” or one operating illegally is better than none at all?

Accreditation in the U.S. is also under scrutiny. The USDE, under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, released newly proposed changes to rewrite several rules concerning regulation of colleges, universities, and their respective accrediting agencies. The proposed changes would loosen federal oversight of these institutions.  In an article for Inside Higher Education, a former for-profit college executive speaks out against plans by the USDE to weaken requirements for oversight of college quality. It’s a disturbing expose of the misappropriation of funds and other unethical activities.  Just as I was about to post this blog, a new report came out by Inside Higher Education that USDE is rolling back or toning down some of its proposed changes in the face of strong opposition.

Right now, the jury is out as to how USDE’s proposed changes will impact accreditation regulations. Personally, I don’t have a good feeling about the direction it is headed. Do we really want less oversight of our schools, universities, and accrediting agencies given the proliferation of questionable for-profit schools and the booming diploma mill industry?

Additional Links:

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b024016f-e13c-4897-8290-817c71b7a3f1

http://www.insightintodiversity.com/u-s-department-of-education-plans-to-overhaul-several-college-accreditation-rules/

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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