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North Carolina law forces colleges to change accreditors every cycle

North Carolina law forces colleges to change accreditors every cycle

Higher Ed Dive

Laura Spitalniak
October 10, 2023
Dive Brief:
  • A new North Carolina law is requiring public colleges to change accreditors every cycle, which usually run between five to 10 years, forcing institutions to undergo a potentially lengthy and expensive process.
  • The law exempts some professional, graduate, departmental and certificate programs — including those in law, pharmacy and engineering — because they must meet specific accreditation criteria. Colleges that cannot find a different accreditor before the cycle ends can remain with their current agency for an additional cycle, the law says.
  • It also allows institutions within the University of North Carolina and North Carolina Community College systems to sue individuals who lie to accrediting agencies about institutions being noncompliant with their standards.
Dive Insight:
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this month that he had signed the bill into law.
The bill contained other provisions, such as adding new high school graduation requirements. While Cooper praised those changes, he called the new accreditation requirements onerous and potentially costly, and recommended that state lawmakers revise them.
North Carolina’s approach mirrors one taken by lawmakers in Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill into law in April 2022. Both statutes seemingly stem from feuds with the same accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Earlier this year, Belle Wheelan, president of SACSCOC, sent a letter to UNC-Chapel Hill requesting a report on how it was complying with its standards. Media coverage had sparked concerns that the creation of a new civic life school had not adequately involved faculty. Their absence in the process would run counter to higher ed’s shared governance model.
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