Insights & Outlooks

Comparing Accreditation Rules Under the Higher Education Act and the PROSPER Act

Quality & Outcomes
Comparing Accreditation Rules Under the Higher Education Act and the PROSPER Act

H.R. 4508, introduced by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), would significantly change how accreditors are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and how they grant accreditation to institutions of higher education.

The chart below compares the accreditation provisions in current law and in the PROSPER Act.

IssueCurrent LawPROSPER Act
10 StandardsRequires accreditors to assess 10 specific areas: student achievement, curricula, faculty, facilities, fiscal capacity, student support, recruiting and admission practices, measure of program length, record of student complaints and record of compliance.Replaces the 10 specific areas with one requirement to assess success with respect only student learning and educational outcomes in relation to the institution’s mission.
Identifying At-Risk InstitutionsN/AAccreditors must develop a mechanism to identify institutions that have trouble with respect to student learning and educational outcome goals. Accreditor would use loan default, repayment and graduation rates to identify institutions at least annually. Secretary would be prohibited from regulating on this identification process.
Differentiated AccreditationN/AEnables accreditors to establish risk-based or differentiated reviews of institutions that have demonstrated strong past performance in meeting accreditation standards.
Waiver AuthorityN/ARequires the Secretary to establish a process for accreditors to seek a waiver of a requirement under the accreditation section of the law. Waiver requests would be required to demonstrate how it would reduce administrative burden and improve outcomes and services for students at an institution.
Transparency of Accreditor ActionsAccreditors must make a summary of their actions publicly available.Requires the posting of the summary on the accreditor’s website and documenting the reason for any adverse action or placement on probation.
Secretarial Approval of Change of AccreditorInstitutions seeking to change their accreditor must seek approval from the Secretary.Only requires institutions that are subject to adverse action or not in good standing to receive Secretarial approval before changing accreditors.
Business Representation on Accreditor BoardN/ARequires that at least one of the public members on an accreditor’s board represent business.
On-Site InspectionsRequired at regulatory-established intervals.Allows intervals to be based upon risk.