The large and sweeping Higher Education Act is set to be reauthorized this year and everyone from journalists to President Barack Obama weighing in on the matter. The act, originally passed in 1965 and last renewed in 2008, dictates how federal funding is awarded the nation’s institutions of higher learning and financial aid programs. The law also covers accreditation mechanisms, which may need to be addressed in light of the many modern providers of online education.
In August of 2013, President Obama laid out his vision for higher education, which included efforts to curb rising tuition costs and giving consumers more information about a particular institution’s performance. Another recommendation includes correlating institutional performance and federal financial aid. When considering accreditation, Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology recommended that the federal government allow the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement to continue to flourish in the early stages of growth by not interfering with additional accreditation requirements.
The Chronicle of Higher Education opined that the current accreditation process was an idealization of self regulation imposed by academics and the entire process needs to be rethought from the ground level. Additionally, Inside Higher Ed argued that accrediting bodies should work together with federal regulators instead of waiting to have new rules issued without their input.
The direction of the upcoming re-authorization will be shaped by congress in 2014 and will be an important matter to monitor for anyone working in higher ed.