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Accreditation and Higher Education

December 7, 2006

A recent hot topic on higher education news sites is accreditation. The head of the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Margaret Spellings, began focusing on the subject this past fall. A number of recent stories at InsideHigherEd have covered accreditation (see here, here, and here).

I’ve been interested see how this would be approached in terms of for-profit universities. Perhaps in anticipation of DOE actions, however, Intel is shifting its policies on education reimbursement. One of the losers in this shift will be the University of Phoenix. An Arizona Republic story by Dawn Gilbertson, titled “Losing Intel a Blow to School,” outlines the situation. Here are some excerpts:

– “The policy dictates that the company will only pay for students who enroll in degree programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or ABET, an accrediting body for engineering and technology programs.”
– “University of Phoenix has long bragged that it had the same general regional accreditation as Arizona State University, Harvard, Yale and others. That’s true, but what it didn’t say was that those schools also have additional accreditation for specialized programs like business and engineering. That’s where AACSB and ABET come in. Schools must go through a rigorous process to earn accreditation. At AACSB, it takes three to seven years to gain accreditation, President John Fernandes said. Once accredited, they are re-examined every five years. What sets the 90-year-old group apart, he said, is its intense focus on faculty credentials and continuity, admissions standards and graduation rates, research, libraries, and student resources, among a host of other factors. Just 530 of 9,000 business schools worldwide have the accreditation. None is for-profit.”
– “Fernandes said University of Phoenix probably wouldn’t make the cut unless it changed the makeup of its faculty, which he called nomadic. The school prides itself on its lineup of teachers with work experience, but most are part time. At AACSB schools, the majority of the faculty is full time and have a long relationship with the school, he said. Fernandes said he is aware of companies who direct employees to AACSB schools as a practice but has not seen any employer come out with a requirement like Intel.”

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It will be interesting to see if other large employers follow suit. I’ve often wondered why human resources personnel, as well as company executives, haven’t looked deeper into the kinds of training and credentials offered by current and potential employees. Perhaps corporate demands, combined with DOE’s efforts, will also indirectly effect substantial improvements in how faculty are treated at these institutions, as well as traditional ones? It’s too bad that accreditation agencies for community colleges don’t seem to look closer at whether “the majority of the faculty is full time and have a long relationship with the school.” – TL

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