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In Brief

Comments to the National Advisory Committee on Quality and Integrity

(Presented by Judith Eaton, President, CHEA, November 21, 1997 in Washington, DC)

Thank you and good morning. I will spend a few minutes with you this morning talking about the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a national organization of private accreditation and quality assurance.

As you recall, the advisory committee heard from Robert Glidden, chair of the board of directors of CHEA and president, Ohio University, at your last meeting in summer 1997. Dr. Glidden informed you of the history and background of CHEA. Today, I will concentrate on the present and the key activities in which CHEA is engaged.

CHEA is intensively engaged in three tasks:

  • providing a needed public voice
    speaking to the state of quality in higher education
  • warranting quality
    setting expectations for quality primarily through formal recognition of accrediting organizations
  • providing service to constituents
    colleges, universities, accrediting organizations and students

These tasks involve us in many activities: federal relations, advocacy for assuring quality through voluntary accreditation, defining emerging issues (e.g. distance education), developing the first CHEA recognition policy, conferences and meetings, publications, research and policy analysis. These tasks are carried out in a climate made difficult by some critics of private accreditation who view it as

  • less than perfect.
    We say that there is not a better quality assurance system available and that CHEA is fundamentally committed to it working well.
  • "conserving" -- some would even say rooted in the past.
    CHEA is committed to balancing the best of the past with energetic investment in the future.
  • less than responsive, with processes that are complex and results that are not well-understood.
    CHEA is committed to simplifying process and enhancing public understanding.

  CHEA's vision and values are built around:

  • clarity of commitment to quality;
  • insistence on public accountability;
  • focus on results;
  • the need for thoughtful change in private accreditation.

  We at CHEA see our relationship with you as:

  • a public-private partnership working together to meet society's needs;
  • built on shared values - our mutual focus on students and society;
  • an opportunity to share, from time to time, some concerns.

I want to express one concern today. The committee, of course, advises the secretary of education with regard to recognition standards and the Triad - the responsibilities for quality assurance shared by the federal government, voluntary accreditation and the states. CHEA's concern is with the 1992 amendments to the higher education act that relate to both the standards and the Triad.

As we are aware, 1992 expanded private accreditation's responsibilities: Private accreditation now goes well beyond academic standards such as curriculum and faculty to administrative and fiscal standards such as institutional default rates, tuition and fees, and audit reports.

This is a concern for two reasons:

  • CHEA believes that accreditation organizations have limited resources. These need to be used efficiently and effectively. Private accreditation's primary business is assuring academic quality. To go beyond this primary business in a major way is to produce inefficiency in the voluntary accreditation process.
  • CHEA believes that the other parts of the Triad are already charged to carry out these administrative and fiscal oversight responsibilities. This results in duplication of effort between the federal government and voluntary accreditation.

Our message about this concern today is, as you advise the secretary, to:

  • keep private accreditation resources invested in what it does best: focused on academic standards, not administrative standards;
  • work together to avoid both inefficiency and duplication; and
  • acknowledge that this is essential for the Triad to work well.

I hope this brief commentary on CHEA's tasks and activities, the difficult climate that is challenging private accreditation, and the relationship of cooperation and shared values we want to sustain with you is useful to you.

Thank you for your attention.

*The full text of a prepared written statement provided by NACIQI includes greater detail and additional material on CHEA's background and current activities.

Copyright 1998, Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Terms of Use

Last Modified: Aug 17, 2016

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