Monday, August 3, 2015

Accreditors to Clamp Down? Unlikely.

By Professor Doom

    Across the country, many of our institutions of higher education are in full-pillage mode. Legitimate students are being lured in, sold bogus coursework in giant lecture halls, and spit out six years later, deep in debt with only a worthless degree to show for it. Bogus students are being signed up, sold bogus coursework in exchange for small checks that go directly to the student and big checks that go to administration, only to drop out and repeat the process at the next school down the road. Endowments are being looted in shady real estate deals, while tuition skyrockets. Our faculty are being impoverished by being forced into sub-minimum wage adjunct jobs, to the point that food banks specialize in helping them just barely survive.

      I could link each of the above statements, but I encourage the gentle reader to peruse my blog to see all assertions are justified and very well documented…and I’m hard pressed to think of a single school that doesn’t engage in any of the above to some extent.

     Accreditation, the supposed independent process by which a school is verified as legitimate and thus is eligible for student loan and grant money, has clearly failed to protect our students, taxpayers, and educators from being ripped off. After decades of such failure, the Federal government has finally caught on that something has gone terribly wrong.

    Accreditors have responded to the scrutiny by promising to try harder, but I wouldn’t put much stock in that. The people that run accreditation are the same people that run our institutions of higher education, for the most part, accreditation is a classic case of foxes guarding the henhouse. These guys are just going to keep plundering.

More than 35% of college students at a range of four-year institutions showed no growth between freshman year and commencement in areas like critical thinking and writing, according to research by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in their 2011 book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,”...Similar findings emerged from a 2005 Education Department report that found more than half of four-year college graduates could not compare viewpoints in newspaper editorials.

Accreditation, a certification that the school is good and special, is really just a slam dunk for any school that pays the fees:

“…Almost no institution misses the mark, and since accreditation is done geographically, an upper-tier school like Purdue is accredited by the same agency that has given accreditation to Indiana University East, where the six-year graduation rate is about 18%...”

     The Wall Street Journal also did a report on accreditation recently, noting that colleges just can’t seem to lose accreditation no matter how poorly they perform (or behave), even schools with sub-10% graduation rates still don’t seem to merit much interest from accreditation. Again, I’ve noted such in my blog, such as a school with a  10 year 0.6% graduation rate still considered “successful,” and UNC’s inability to receive any penalty for outrageous acts of fraud over the course of nearly 20 years.

     Oh lawdy, the lies here. I took a school through the accreditation process, so I know exactly how those assessments are administered. Each faculty makes up an assignment for his own class (an easy assignment, so the class looks good, of course), then grades his own assignment. Then we put all these assignments in boxes, thousands and thousands of pages. Then we told our accreditor that we assessed ourselves and found ourselves to be doing a spiffy job.

     If accreditors actually looked at what was going on in the courses at the college, as I did (I was in a position very few faculty get), they’d know the fraud going on here, and it’s going on across the country. Too bad accreditation is set up so that they can’t possibly see fraud.

     This is the key point about accreditation: accreditors never actually see what’s going on in the classrooms with their own eyes. Accreditors simply trust the institutions to self-report their legitimacy (it worked so well for UNC…). If accreditors surreptitiously signed up for the courses, attended classes, and took a few tests, they’d know just how extensive the fraud is. They’d see with their own eyes that what goes on in the classroom is completely unhinged from what accreditors are told, as studies show.

     At a senate hearing, our government officials tried to get an understanding of how complete rip-off institutions can nevertheless have flawless accreditation:

A few minutes later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) questioned how accreditors could have approved Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit institution that was the subject of more than 20 state and federal investigations before filing for bankruptcy-law protection in May.
Albert Gray, president and chief executive of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, defended Corinthian’s accreditation, saying they “complied with our criteria.” 

     Yes, Corinthian, a school so thoroughly fake that the Federal government simply couldn’t take any more of Corinthian’s student loan-inspired fraud and shut it down despite being accredited. And all accreditation can say is it “complied with our criteria.”

     Hey, government officials, why not just look at the accreditation criteria, like I did? A line by line analysis of accreditation shows very clearly that an institution can be openly, extravagantly fraudulent and still satisfy accreditation requirements. Of course, once government officials take the time to see this, they should ask “who changed the requirements to be such a ridiculous joke?” Then they’ll probably why accreditation has absolutely no penalties attached to any violations of accreditation. There are lots of good questions to ask about accreditation once you start looking at the details.

 Accreditors plan to gather next month to discuss how they can better protect students, but they are unlikely to draw minimum thresholds for graduation rates, Ms. Eaton said. She acknowledged they could learn from the groups that accredit specific programs, and take into account figures such as passing rates for licensing exams.

    Hey, I admit graduation rates aren’t everything, and I know full well that if accreditation mandates a 50% graduation rate, then faculty will be forced to set up programs for that rate (or be terminated). 

     What is everything? Integrity. 

     Higher education (and accreditation) is run by people who simply don’t understand the word, despite the fact that accreditation mandates that its institutions operate with integrity (see, for example, section 1 of an accreditor’s requirements). Corinthian quite clearly did not operate with integrity, and yet still satisfied accreditation requirements, to give some idea of how completely lost our accreditors are.

     As long as massive sums of student loan money flow into higher education, I doubt there’s much hope we can restore integrity to the system. That said, fixing accreditation is actually not out of the question…too bad accreditation is run by the same people that took integrity out of the system.



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