The Future of Accreditation According to the US Department of Education

Blue Marble University Ltd., the parent corporation of Blue Marble University,  is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Dominica to issue degrees upon the recommendation of its Faculty.  But  when our small group first began to develop Blue Marble University, we of course considered various pathways toward accreditation. We were surprised to learn that there was and is no pathway for the accreditation of a strictly virtual university with no campus that uses the internet to offer scholarly programs on a budget.

It seems that the traditional colleges want to keep online education to themselves, and they use the government to help them. A quote from the Georgia education regulations is instructive: “It is generally assumed that institutions using a distance education method of delivery will already have an adequate on-ground program in place.” All of the States appear likewise to eagerly bar virtual schools that could save students substantial education costs.

And now, having been operational for several years, we find that traditional accreditation seems to be coming apart as the USA  federal government calls for major reform, and even suggests the abolishment of the accreditation system altogether. We question whether any new institution would want to get involved in a procedure which now seems to lack much of a following. Take a look at the increasingly hostile comments of the United States Department of Education toward the Accreditation Industry:

2010: The US Department of Education questions “seat time”, which is the foundation of the accreditation system, rejecting the traditional time requirement of 4 years for an undergraduate degree, and stating that accreditation procedures should be reformed to emphasize “schools that organize around competence rather than seat time…[and schools that provide] more flexible scheduling that fits a student’s individual needs rather than on traditional academic periods and lockstep curriculum pacing”. Click here for “National Education Technology Plan 2010“.

2012 (January): The USA Department of Education position that seat time should be abolished is reaffirmed. Click here for“Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity”.

2012 (November): US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said this of online colleges, “The existing accreditation system was not designed to accommodate them and it would be a mistake to try to bend or warp its mission to do so. It can’t be done.” He believes that a new federal regulatory system needs to be designed to deal with online and for-profit colleges rather than trying to apply outmoded traditional accreditation guidelines to them. Click HERE for “8 Higher Ed Accreditation Reforms That Need to Happen Now”, published November 25, 2012 at OnlineColleges.org

2012: US Department of Education begins discussing the abolition of the accreditation system: “Any serious analysis of accreditation as it is currently practiced results in the unmistakable conclusion that institutional purposes, rather than public purposes, predominate….Traditional approaches to accreditation are not meeting today’s needs. Technology has rendered the quaint jurisdictional approach to accreditation obsolete. Some standards actually vary by region. The rise of distance learning and electronic delivery of educational content across borders means that provider and student can be nations apart. Campuses and content today ignore geographic boundaries. More and more students are crossing state lines to complete their education and enrolling in multiple institutions, often simultaneously. Accreditation should refocus efforts on student achievement for the growing number who undertake alternative forms of education, and expand international quality assurance efforts.” Click here for “The Need For Accreditation Reform” published by the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education

Sure, the traditional educational institutions and the many websites and organizations that push their products (most of which organizations they created)  constantly tout the great value of an accredited college or university. These kinds of self-serving positions are meant solely to protect their positions as the great gatekeepers of higher education. They constantly warn prospective students to beware of “unaccredited” programs, which, let’s face it, are an incredible threat to their high priced existence. At USC (University of Southern California), the Dean of the Education School, Karen Gallagher was asked:  How come your online Masters Degree in Teaching costs the same as for the on-campus program? The answer: “If you want a USC degree, you have to pay USC tuition”. That sure says it all, doesn’t it? [Anya Kamenetz, “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education” (Chelsea Green Publishing 2010), interview with Karen Gallagher, at page 90].

The only value to attending an accredited institution is that you will qualify for federal loan programs which you will need to pay for it!! Only “accredited” institutions qualify for USA student loans. This is totally irrelevant to Blue Marble University, which charges as low as $2700/yr for a doctoral program…you don’t need a student loan…and we even offer a no interest payment plan.

And we have noticed a new trend here at Blue Marble University. Students no longer inquire if we are accredited, as in the past…they just send in their applications.

Maybe what Daniel S. Christian predicted in May 2011 is now coming true:  “If the accreditation bodies don’t respond to the growing suspicion towards them – and towards higher education as a whole – it will be like water going around a rock in a stream. People will flow right by them – whether the government assumes control or not.”

Blue Marble University
We Know Online Education…And We Do It Well