Accreditation and Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HR 4508)

February 21, 2018

Dear Colleague:

There has been much discussion in the higher education and accreditation communities about the bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4508) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, introduced in December 2017. The bill has been passed by the House Education and Workforce Committee and awaits moving to the floor of the House. Some of the discussion has been thoughtful and reflective, mostly focused on student financial aid and, to a lesser extent, accountability. Some of the discussion, both within higher education and without, has been quite partisan.

Little of the discussion, however, has focused on the bill’s accreditation provisions and its far-reaching implications for determination of quality, quality assurance and quality improvement in higher education. Yet, these provisions, if implemented, will upend accreditation as we know it, with powerful repercussions for both the recognized accrediting organizations and the institutions and programs they review. As H.R. 4508 makes clear, the goal of the bill is to reform higher education, not just reauthorize the Higher Education Act – and this includes accreditation.

Attached is a description of the challenges that H.R. 4508 poses for accreditation, the key accreditation provisions, the accreditation provisions as they relate to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Position Paper on Regulatory Relief for Accreditation (Spring 2017), enduring issues for accreditation and suggestions and talking points for institutions and programs.

At present, there is no timetable for H.R. 4508 to go to the floor of the House. Nor is there a specific timetable in the U.S. Senate for the introduction of a reauthorization bill, including accreditation. Both houses and parties have expressed interest in having a bill this year, but whether this can occur is yet to be known.

CHEA, moving forward, will continue to monitor developments in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as these affect accreditation. Most important, we will represent our members’ interest in preserving the commitment to institutional mission, to peer review, to academic freedom and to quality improvement that are at the heart of all that we do.

Thank you.


Judith Eaton