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A New Accreditation Program Looms

A supplemental document accompanying Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, “The President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class and a Strong America,” was released outlining proposed changes to the accreditation system of higher education institutions across the United States.

The document calls for a major shift in the way higher education institutions are evaluated for government funding. U.S. President Barack Obama called for massive changes to the criteria used to evaluate colleges. The government is demanding accreditors either take tuition costs, as well as educational quality, into consideration when evaluating institutions or develop a new accreditation system entirely.

“Taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize higher and higher and higher costs of higher education,” Obama said at the State of the Union Address. “Colleges must do their part to keep their costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.”

With these changes, a clear pathway of financial aid could become available to students who receive credits from competency-based programs or Massive Open Online Courses.

“Raising the possibility of a new pathway to accreditation is a very serious shot across the bow to the existing accreditation establishment,” Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire, told Inside Higher Ed. “If not exactly a call for the incumbents to re-invent themselves, it is certainly an explicit call to accommodate new innovative delivery models.”