- The Education Department plans to reduce compliance requirements for accrediting bodies as part of an imminent and sweeping negotiated rulemaking session, according to Diane Auer Jones, the department's principal deputy under secretary, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.
- Jones said the department's stance on accreditation revolves around the idea of innovation, with officials saying Obama-era rules that placed heavier oversight responsibility on accrediting bodies limited their ability to "tolerate some risk" and support different types institutions — in particular, for-profits.
- The proposal stands alongside department's public plans to drop a standardized definition for the academic credit hour, replace the gainful employment rule and reassess online education requirements, among other moves, signaling a greater push for deregulation. Jones told Inside Higher Ed the department will announce Monday details of the negotiated rule-making process for 2019.
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department put more responsibility on accrediting bodies to better evaluate whether institutions were focusing on student outcomes, arguing at the time that accreditation standards were not sufficient. In particular, the administration was vocal around limiting perceived abuse of for-profit institutions after the department received a slew of complaints from former for-profit students, asking that their loan debt be erased because they couldn't pay it.
Much of the Obama-era stance on accreditation aimed to curtail the abuse of institutions promising students a false return from their investments. But, the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is a vocal supporter of private institutions and is alleged to have investments in that sector, have decried what they call restrictive regulatory burdens on accrediting bodies. The current administration argues the oversight responsibility should be separate from their role of evaluating the quality of an education.
Going forward, it's clear that the Trump administration will follow through with plans to further deregulation private institutions and for-profits. The Education Department recently announced a proposal to replace the gainful employment rule, which cut off federally guaranteed student loans to for-profit institutions when graduates could not pay off their debt from their incomes earned post college.