ERIC Number: EJ855522
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 14
Accreditation's Legal Landscape
Graca, Thomas J.
Community College Journal of Research and Practice, v33 n8 p642-649 2009
Like most issues in higher education, the accreditation paradigm in the United States is defined in large measure by the legal and political climate in which the academy finds itself. In the case of accreditation in particular, the legal substrate is of particular importance given the central role of accreditation in a college's ability to receive certain types of government assistance. As the law is increasingly demanding more measurable and exacting student outcomes from institutions of higher education (IHEs), the accrediting agencies are responding. While the agencies' particular responses to these demands form the substance of the U.S. government's requirements, the accrediting agencies remain--to the largest extent--private associations. Although there are exceptions to this dogma, and the associations tend to be treated by the law as less private than some other associations, the fact remains that the relationship between the accrediting agencies and their member IHEs is--at its core--a private contractual relationship. The laws of contracts and private associations though are not perfectly suited to governing this relationship given the significance and intensity of accreditation's role in government funding. For this reason, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and the courts have adjusted the generally applicable laws of contracts and private associations in the case of the accrediting associations. In this way, the accrediting associations and the accreditation processes that they employ are governed by a unique and frequently evolving body of law. In this article, the author provides a substantive introduction to, and summary of, this body of law. The author discusses the role of accreditation in government funding of IHEs which has necessitated some adaptations to the generally applicable laws of contracts and private associations in the case of the accrediting agencies.
Descriptors: Accreditation (Institutions), Institutional Evaluation, State Federal Aid, Educational Policy, Federal Regulation, Audits (Verification), Contracts, Institutional Role, School Law
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Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States