It’s no secret that the cost of higher education in the United States is out of control. With millions of college students now settling in at campuses across the country, Generation Opportunity’s director of policy engagement, David Barnes, took the opportunity to point out one of the lesser-known reasons higher education is so expensive.
In his op-ed published last week in RealClearEducation, Barnes explains how federally-sanctioned college accreditation associations drive up tuition costs, limit options and stifle competition.
Thanks to the Higher Education Act, schools must be accredited by these associations in order to be eligible for grants and financial aid and remain competitive. But because many major colleges and universities are dues-paying members of these same associations, there’s a huge conflict of interest.
Barnes points out:
They [the accreditation associations] are unlikely to deny the accreditation renewal of the association members who fund them. And they have little incentive to accredit new institutions that could offer students cheaper, better or more innovative alternatives to the status quo.
Students need higher education reform, but the answer isn’t to pump even more federal subsidies into an already-bloated system. Rather, Congress should break up the federally sanctioned cartel by giving states the authority to approve accreditors on their own.
There’s no reason that a state-based system should be limited to accrediting traditional brick-and-mortar colleges. Online courses, apprenticeships, trade certification programs and more should be eligible for accreditation if they meet the standards set by the state.
This reform would open up new educational possibilities to students who aren’t well served by the traditional college system, such as working parents who lack the time to take more than one course simultaneously. And faced with new competition, colleges and universities would have a strong incentive to lower their sky-high tuition rates.
To read the full op-ed, click here.