“Trustees play a significant role in accreditation, our system of peer/professional review of quality in higher education,” said Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), in remarks delivered to the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). “Board engagement is part of enhancing effective accreditation.”
“Accreditation is important to trustees and their work,” Eaton stated. “At the same time, board engagement is valuable to accreditation, especially in relation to the federal role that accreditation plays, because of the fiduciary role of boards. This includes affirming the institution’s commitment to quality and accountability to the public.”
Eaton served as a keynote speaker at ACCT’s 40th Annual Leadership Conference, held October 7-10 in San Francisco.
“We are all aware that accredited status is needed to assure eligibility for federal aid,” Eaton said. “Additionally, accreditation signals that the institution is part of the academic community. Accreditation may also be needed for access to private funds such as grants or employee tuition assistance and, in some cases, to operate in certain states.”
“At this juncture, accreditation is especially important because of the accountability culture in which we live,” Eaton pointed out. “Just as higher education must demonstrate success with regard to student achievement, accreditation must demonstrate that accredited status is part of assuring that this success is being realized.”
Noting that it is where accreditation and accountability intersect that the role of a governing board is so important, Eaton praised the work of institutions and accreditors on accountability. “While Washington tends to approach accountability through a regulatory lens, it is vital that we are also mobilizing ourselves – our community of institutions – to address accountability,” she said. “Absent such mobilizing, we endanger the core academic values and commitment to mission, independence and academic freedom that have been so essential to our success to date.”
“CHEA thinks that this issue of higher education leadership for accountability and sustaining academic values is so important that we have established a national dialogue on the future of accreditation,” Eaton concluded. “The CHEA Initiative is a multi-year effort looking for consensus about the role of accreditation, about accountability and about higher education’s relationship with government. We hope that all of you will be a part of this effort.”
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A national advocate and institutional voice for self-regulation of academic quality through accreditation, CHEA is an association of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations. For more information, visit CHEA’s Website at www.chea.org.