Arnold Kling  

Accreditation of Colleges

Should I Take to Drink?... Greg Mankiw has a Blog...

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.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (4 to date)
PJens writes:

Consumers would benifit from information more than accreditation. I doubt licensing will go away. The focus then ought to be on developing a means of gathering and distributing accurate, stress accurate, information on the performance of professionals.

People ought to do a little investigating each time a new professional is employeed. Check out a doctor before letting that cold stethescope hit your chest. See if the lawyer who is about to write the will has been in trouble with the bar. See if the financial planner who will invest retirement funds is reputable.

I also believe that professionals need to do a better job of policing themselves. In some fields, it is a taboo to report members who are doing poor work. Economists may critize each other constantly, but try to find a group of doctors who do that.

Drtaxsacto writes:

The risk here is to throw out a system that needs some changes for a national ministry of education. The Economist pointed out in the Fall Higher Education survey that the US system was the best in the world because it had no central ministry.

No Child Left Behind as a model is no model at all. The proposed Foundation, were it to be controlled or operated by the feds in any way would diminish the capabilities of higher education. Better that we would think more carefully about how to get some required information.

The assertion that the author makes about a complete lack of information is idiotic. Look at all of the websites that explain college admissions standards, financial aid, etc. But what is needed is some greater level of coherency. That does not begin with the creation of a national ministry.

Geofrey Brand writes:

Whenever the topic of licensing, be it lawyers or doctors, you hear the same "tired" argument (mainly from doctors and lawyers) “it is impossible for me to check out every professional I use. Government licensing is necessary to know who’s qualified” WRONG WRONG WRONG…

You will still get approval agencies. Ever heard of the Better Business Bureau.. Consumer Reports.. Underwriters Laboratories… The demand for such agencies would be higher and you will get more of them

If you want a good doctor, or lawyer …Just visit somebody with a seal you trust… that simple..

You just don’t need a government monopoly on approval…
It will be self regulating by the market.. If an agency loses its independence…quality or cost of its members is out of line with people’s wants.

Consumers will start to go to other doctors or lawyers approved by the second (or third) most popular approval agency..

With a government approval agency (i.e., licensing).. you end up with regulatory capture.. You end up with what lawyers and doctors want .. Not what consumers of law and medicine want…

MjrMjr writes:

I think Bryan Caplan's read on school as a signaling mechanism is relatively on point. What does it signal to potential employers if a young person chose to attend a non-accredited school?

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top