Making Accreditation Documents Publicly Available

AB 2247 Letter of SupportStates and the federal government rely heavily on accrediting agencies to make judgments about whether colleges and universities have the appropriate expertise, resources, and systems to provide quality educational programs. Institutions gain access to billions of dollars in state and federal funding by virtue of securing and maintaining accreditation. The public’s ability to monitor the work of accrediting agencies themselves, however, is virtually nonexistent. A bill in the California State Legislature, AB 2247 (Williams), would bring a basic level of transparency in the accreditation process by providing public access to the substance of accreditation reviews. The public and policy makers need to know what the accreditation process involves, and the issues that are and aren’t pursued.

Many public institutions already make these documents available on their websites. California Competes found that more than 80 percent of the campuses of each of the three public systems – California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California – already make the accreditation materials publicly available (action letters, visiting team reports, and self-studies). Among private institutions, however, almost none are available except the newest reports for those institutions under WASC-Senior accreditation. Because a strong majority of public institutions readily provide these documents on their websites, requiring all institutions receiving state funds to provide this information would help create a more complete picture of accreditation’s role in assuring the quality of postsecondary education.

Making accreditation materials public provides important information to consumers and analysts. Furthermore, it demystifies the accreditation process, helping outsiders to understand what we can and cannot rely on accreditation to accomplish.

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Issues: Accreditation