Monday, October 28, 2013

What money has done to accreditation, from old schools to new


The last joke of accreditation a century ago

By Professor Doom

So let’s finish this list of what was necessary for accreditation over a century ago:

1. follow respectable entrance requirements

2. offer courses selected from the classics

3. ensure a minimum of eight departments headed by full-time

instructors, each possessing at least a master’s degree

4. provide a good library

5. properly prepare students for post-graduate study

6. have a maximum class size of 30

7. have a productive endowment of at least $200,000.

 

I’ve covered the first six previously, and they all related to education…a real shocker compared to accreditation of today, which has very little, if anything, to do with education. But what of that last rule, which apparently seems to have nothing to do with education?

Let’s focus in on it, because money has much to do with education today.

 

 

7. have a productive endowment of at least $200,000.

 

Nowadays, accreditation doesn’t specify a sum, merely that the institution is fiscally secure, not that accreditors pay much attention. This clause is difficult to interpret in modern terms. About the only way to analyze this is to convert $200,000 in the 19th century into today’s bogus fiat currency. At the time this clause was written, $200,000 was basically 10,000 ounces of gold—a vast sum. In today’s money, that’s around $13,000,000—remember, an institution needed this money to fund EIGHT departments with faculty.

This rule existed because only large, established schools could become accredited. First they became a legitimate institution, with a reputation that could attract students, so many that they could set up a large endowment. Then and only then came accreditation, the independent, outside recognition that the school was dedicated to education and research.

It’s all reversed now, and the second half, the part about being legitimate, is completely ignored optional.

$13,000,000 barely pays a few years’ salary of just the administrators of even a SMALL school nowadays (leaving no money for those eight departments with faculty), but could support a couple dozen faculty for a six year program. Back then, a small school wasn’t concerned about accreditation, since there was no vast federal student loan scam program that could only go to accredited schools. Accreditation was nice to have, but it was more important to be legitimate.

Now, when a school opens, its first, primary, only mission is to satisfy accreditation. I took a school through the whole accreditation process. While seeking accreditation, yes, I could offer legitimate courses, provided I was doing all I could to satisfy and fill out all the forms and documentation necessary for accreditation. This struck me as fair and reasonable, but I was naïve, and didn’t realize administration’s plan.

See, the thing was, without accreditation, the school needed revenue and students, and without loan money, the only students we were going to get were those that wanted to learn so much that they were willing to pay with their own money…and that could only happen if we offered legitimate education. A fake student could just go to a fake school, after all.

Once we received accreditation, it all changed. Students (and those sweet loan checks!) poured in, and administration had no interest (or need) of legitimacy. Instead, bogus courses flooded our catalogue, bogus teachers taught courses with legitimate-sounding names, and it no longer mattered if what actually went on in the course was nothing like the catalogue…we were accredited now, and accreditors never actually look to see what goes on in the classroom. I was harassed repeatedly for offering real courses that prepared students (many of whom went on to get real degrees in nursing and engineering…I’m still Facebook friends with many of them), while Educationists offering fake courses received praise, promotions, and rewards for bogus or minimal material in courses with the same name as mine.

We went from an unaccredited institution that the local schools were proud to send students to, to an accredited institution that the local teachers now warn their students to avoid. It was made clear that my “ilk” wasn’t needed any more, and I had no choice but to move on, regretting the years and effort spent on building an accredited school.

In the 19th and early 20th century, accreditation was a legitimate seal of legitimacy, a sign that a school was an established institution dedicated to the teaching and research of higher education. Now, it’s still perceived as a seal of legitimacy, but it means nothing, and my own eyes have shown me it is arguably detrimental to education.

Before going back to tuition, I’m going to reinforce how little accreditation means by following up on a school that’s sort-of losing accreditation, and another school that’s in a tad of trouble.

For now, consider the unintended consequences of tying accreditation to student loan money. It is now impossible for an institution of higher education to survive without accreditation, and being accredited means never having to care in the slightest about the legitimacy of the education at an institution.

 

Think about it.