Accreditation of Colleges
By Arnold Kling
Inside Higher Ed reports,
Dickeson’s paper suggests, because accreditation is the primary system responsible for gauging the performance and ensuring the success of higher education in the United States. If the quality of American higher education is slipping, as the commission’s other papers argue, then accreditation must share the blame.
The system performs two main purposes, the paper says: helping institutions assess themselves and improve, and protecting consumers and the public interest. And it is falling short on the latter, the paper says.
“Any serious analysis of accreditation as it is currently practiced results in the unmistakable conclusion that institutional purposes, rather than public purposes, predominate,” it says. “A system that is created, maintained, paid for and governed by institutions is necessarily more likely to look out for institutional interests.”
When I gave my talk on health care on Capitol Hill (it went better than I expected, by the way), I briefly made the case against licensing requirements in medicine. Someone in the audience countered with, “How would you like it if someone without a Ph. D could talk to us about health care policy?”
Of course, someone without a Ph. D can give a talk about health care policy. It is up to the listener to decide if a speaker on health care policy has credibility, based on credentials and any other considerations that the listener chooses to employ. You don’t necessarily need to back credentials with the force of law. You would not be arrested for talking about health care without a Ph.D, but you could be arrested for practicing medicine without a license.
Consumers benefit from full information. If I know how a doctor was trained–and, even better, if I have some performance data–then I can determine whether he or she is qualified to treat me.
Licensing benefits professional cartels. It does not benefit consumers.
The same holds true of accreditation. It benefits the collegiate cartel. Consumers would benefit from information, not from accreditation.