Insights & Outlooks

Accreditation Rules: Comparing the PROSPER Act and Aim Higher Act

Quality & Outcomes
Accreditation Rules: Comparing the PROSPER Act and Aim Higher Act

How would the Aim Higher Act and the PROSPER Act affect accreditation rules?

On July 24, 2018, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce introduced the Aim Higher Act, a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).

The Democratic proposal follows the December 2017 PROSPER Act (Promoting Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform or H.R. 4508), an HEA reauthorization bill introduced by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Both bills would 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, the PROSPER Act, and the Aim Higher Act.

IssueCurrent LawPROSPER ActAim Higher 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.Would require accreditors to focus on two new student achievement outcomes -completion and workforce participation. Secretary can require accreditor to redo standards if not deemed sufficient.
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.Accreditors must establish a transparent and standardized process applicable to all institutions of higher education, regardless of sector. It requires the development of a standardized set of consequences that all accreditors must adopt when they determine an institution is not meeting the accreditation standards.
Differentiated AccreditationN/AEnables accreditors to establish risk-based or differentiated reviews of institutions that have demonstrated strong past performance in meeting accreditation standards.N/A
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.N/A
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.Would require disclosures that make the accreditation process and institutions’ status more transparent. Agencies are required to post the student achievement measures established by the agency, a list of institutions who failed to meet the requirements and a list of institutions in progress
period status that received support and that failed to meet the requirements necessary to receive additional support.
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.Institutions seeking to change their accreditor must seek approval from the Secretary.
Business Representation on Accreditor BoardN/ARequires that at least one of the public members on an accreditor’s board represent business.Not applicable
On-Site InspectionsRequired at regulatory-established intervals.Allows intervals to be based upon risk.Does not change current law.
Accreditor StandardsN/AN/AThe Secretary may require an accreditor to review metrics or set new standards if the Secretary determines that the metrics or standards set by such accreditor are insufficient or low.

It would also require that the Secretary publish a report annually.