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DOWN: North Carolina legislature seeks to break up accreditation monopoly

DOWN: North Carolina legislature seeks to break up accreditation monopoly

North State Journal

Nick Down
May 22, 2023
On April 6, North Carolina state Sens. Michael Lee, Amy Galey and Phil Berger introduced Senate Bill 680, a higher education bill that would prevent the University of North Carolina (UNC) System from being accredited by the same agency for consecutive cycles. 
That may seem like a mind-numbing bit of insider baseball, but with the introduction of Senate Bill 680, North Carolina legislators may be able to do what once seemed impossible ― break up the outdated regional accreditation monopoly. In doing so, the bill upends the long-standing system of regional monopolies which locks schools into the authority of a geographically assigned, quasi-governmental regulatory agency. With the element of choice comes pressure on the accreditors to stay in their lane of academic quality assurance (and get better at it!) and exercise greater fairness or lose market share. 
For most schools, being in an accreditor’s good favor is a matter of financial survival since six regional higher education accreditors currently control access to over $100 billion in student loan funding. Prior to a federal rule that went into effect in 2020, schools could not leave an accreditor that they found capricious, unfair or inappropriately controlling. 
But accreditors are imperfect judges of quality and ought to be taken to task. For example, nearly 50 nonprofit colleges and universities that have four-year graduation rates of 20% or less still receive accreditation from SACSCOC. It is not rare to find accredited schools that saddle their graduates with crippling debt, graduate less than one in 10 students on time, or spend more on marketing than financial aid.  
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