On Monday, after reporting on the closure of an online community college partnership, I tweeted the story to Slate’s Matt Yglesias, hoping he might recognize higher education accreditation as one of those areas where an economic policy idea can “transfer economic resources from a privileged minority to the masses.”
Matt thoughtfully and politely replied: “Sounds bad. Note that accrediting organizations aren’t proper regulators at all — hyper-empowered private cartel enforcers.”
And Matt is right. Higher education accreditation entities “aren’t proper regulators” per se. They are not federal government entities and they are not subject to the Administrative Procedures Act. But, who exactly did “hyper-empower” these accreditation agencies to become “private cartel enforcers”?
The federal government, that is who.
When they were first founded around the turn of the century, accreditation entities, like the North Central Association, were purely voluntary efforts to establish uniform standards across higher education and improve academic quality.
But all that began to change when the federal government began to foot the bill for more and more of higher education spending.