Our View: College accreditation critical for many reasons

September 20th, 2017 6:59 pm - updated: 10:51 am.

The plight of McCann School of Business and Technology campuses serving the Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton areas is a teaching moment on the complex topic of school “accreditation.” Yes, the word glazes eyes, but it impacts college access, success or failure of colleges themselves, and a graduate’s earning power.

Accreditation is intended to assure the quality of education programs, but it isn’t required. In fact, earlier this year Northwestern University’s journalism and communications school deliberately let accreditation lapse, contending the program was prestigious and rigorous enough to get along fine without it.

That’s probably true. Few employers are likely to reject a Northwestern graduate a journalism job with or without accreditation. But that may not be the case in all fields of study. Accreditation of a college’s health-care degree programs, for example, remains pretty much a must.

And accreditation can impact available financial aid. Like many for-profit institutions, McCann was accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). In December 2016, the federal government stopped recognizing ACICS as a valid accrediting agency, meaning schools accredited by ACICS could no longer participate in federal student aid and loan programs.

That was bad news for McCann — as evidenced by its recent decision to stop enrolling new students at campuses in Wilkes-Barre Township and Hazle Township.

Meanwhile, ACICS has been fighting the decision and reforming its program, but most schools looked for another accreditation agency to maintain access to financial aid.

There is no indication McCann did anything wrong in all of this. The reality is that many colleges and universities, both for-profit and non-profit, face a demographic problem: Fewer high school graduates in many states means fewer prospective college students. Losing the option of luring students with federal aid exacerbates that problem.

But there is a political angle. The Obama administration turned a harsh eye on for-profit colleges, claiming it wanted to curb overcharging for an education that didn’t lead to well-paying jobs. Critics fear the Trump administration will relax that scrutiny, for good reason. Donald Trump had Trump University, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has had financial interests in other for-profit college companies.

CAP also reported that DeVos had money invested in Apollo Investment Corp., which in turn had invested in Delta Educational System Inc. Delta operates several for-profit institutions, including McCann.

A college education has always been a business, even for non-profits. The fear with for-profits is that education will take a back seat to the business of college.

— Times Leader