May we be candid for a moment? When academic administrators are alone—no faculty members or representatives of the press in sight—one of the things we complain about most bitterly is accreditation. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about regional accreditation of all our programs or specialized accreditation of individual programs, we find it a nuisance at best and a major waste of time and effort at worst. It’s not that we don’t see advantages accruing from accreditation. We do. But we find that those returns seem to be ever diminishing and certainly not worth the cost involved in the process.
Even worse, accreditation sometimes actually gets in the way of our efforts to be innovative and responsive to the needs of a new generation of students. Legislatures, governing boards, and students all want us to offer accelerated paths to an academic degree, but accrediting agencies are still mired in outdated notions such as seat time and contact hours, even as they give lip service to the importance of outcomes-based assessment and evaluation. So, if you accept a few too many AP or IB credits—or, heaven forfend, try to launch an accelerated bachelor’s/master’s degree program—you’re likely to run into a brick wall of reasons why your creative solution (which everyone seems to like except the accreditors) “dilutes the integrity of the academic degree,” simply because a graduate won’t have been physically present in a classroom as long as he or she might have been 20 or 50 years ago.