When U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin spoke to a room full of accreditors and accreditation advocates here on Wednesday morning, many were worried that the Iowa Democrat would repeat some of the harsh criticisms he has leveled at the accreditation system in recent years.
In several hearings of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which he leads, the senator has accused accreditors of being poor stewards of federal student aid, setting low standards for institutions, and allowing the accreditation process to be beset by conflicts of interest.
Instead, Senator Harkin, who will be retiring from the Senate at the end of the year, praised accreditors while laying out an overview of changes he would like to see for accreditation in the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
“You are the experts in determining academic quality,” Senator Harkin said at the annual meeting of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, an association that represents some 3,000 accredited institutions and recognizes about 60 accrediting agencies. <Read more.>