Red Herrings, Tortoises and Other Accreditation Fables


“A Hare was making enjoyment of the Tortoise one working day for being so slow.

‘Do you ever get anywhere?’ he questioned with a mocking chuckle.

‘Yes,’ replied the Tortoise, ‘and I get there faster than you assume. I will operate you a race and verify it.’”- The Hare & the Tortoise

As customers of the Outside of Transfer Policy Advisory Board, we share a motivation to dismantling inequitable credit history mobility and transfer guidelines and tactics. We seek to centre students and the recognition of their understanding as they transfer throughout establishments and move as a result of their living, functioning and discovering activities further than significant university.

Our function in latest many years has concentrated on a number of insurance policies and methods developed to recognize that in the 12 months 2022, the the vast majority of learners are mobile and would benefit from acquiring credit from a assortment of high-top quality understanding activities. We have tackled subject areas that array from the deficiency of economical help for students who transfer to the require to realize much more about how credits are applied to university student diploma completion. While we will keep on to elevate suggestions in a assortment of places, we are also turning our attention to how to interact accreditors.

Some have requested us, “why?” Accreditation is sophisticated, and to quite a few a daunting and extensive-expression, Tortoise-like approach. But we assert there is good power in participating accreditors for (at minimum) the pursuing motives:

  • Scale: Accreditation reaches institutions at scale. It is a single of just a handful of processes or units that is pervasive, and crosses state, system and institutional borders.
  • Society and high quality: Genuinely switching greater education’s approach to credit score mobility and transfer will have to have deep lifestyle improve. There is no fast resolve. Accreditation delivers a platform for extended-expression adjust that hits at the coronary heart of superior-quality training and studying, and how establishments function.
  • “We” are the “them”: Whilst there are accrediting bodies with team, the onus for accreditation lies with larger training practitioners. There is no “them” accreditation is pushed by “us.” Accreditation is, therefore, an effective way of participating the experts–those who commit their days educating and major faculties and universities–in the method of advancing credit score mobility and student success.


Experts targeted on credit history mobility and transfer usually lament the absence of national and federal devices, policies and procedures. There is no federal coverage on transfer. No technological know-how methods utilized nationally. Even the federal Built-in Postsecondary Instruction Details Program (IPEDS) reporting on scholar results for pupils who transfer is universally lambasted as inadequate.

Accreditation may perhaps feel like an imperfect remedy, but it is a single of the only certainly systemic levers available that is pervasive sufficient in mother nature to travel the style of modify we search for. Accrediting bodies have huge oversight and affect. To accessibility the billions of bucks appropriated for federal scholar assist (Title IV of the Increased Education and learning Act), institutions will have to be accredited by an agency recognized by the Section of Education.

For the most part, alterations in credit mobility and transfer hence considerably have been concentrated at the establishment level or in regional partnerships. Accreditors, as a team, taking a more challenging-edged technique to inquiring questions, reviewing facts, and elevating criteria for credit history mobility and transfer could provide as an embedded way to accelerate adjust built to support learners who would benefit from credit history mobility throughout the country.

Additionally, historical past demonstrates that the industry has reacted to adjustments in accreditation, creating answers in regions such as studying results assessment, scholar success facts and accreditation administration. It is time for some new suggestions in the credit mobility house, these types of as scaled know-how methods that automate credit score evaluation. Experts have sequenced the human genome, but it is nonetheless prevalent observe for many folks to weigh in on whether or not a single study course will transfer. We assume notice from accreditors can aid deliver some desired imaginative electrical power.

A be aware on language: Viewers may see that we are not making use of “transfer college students.” This is an intentional determination on the portion of the Over and above Transfer Coverage Advisory Board. In the 12 months 2022, the bulk of students are mobile and would profit from obtaining credit history from a variety of superior-quality studying ordeals, ranging from dual enrollment to perform-based mostly learning, army working experience and electronic badging. We rejoice the property brought to postsecondary education and learning by pupils who are cellular, while also recognizing a extended record of bias and stigma employed towards “transfer students”–significantly people who commence their educations at neighborhood colleges–and the strategies that labeling pupils in this way can produce the effect of “othering” them. Students will continue to transfer throughout institutions, but we need to aid credit mobility writ substantial and create consciousness that we are doing virtually all pupils a disservice by not recognizing the expertise and skills they transfer from a host of options, even if they never alter establishments.

Tradition and High-quality

Accreditation is a signal that a university or college is an institution of excellence, a single that is willing to take a look at by itself and increase. If accreditors asserted that awareness to credit history mobility and transfer was an assumed marker of quality, institutions would reply, and in excess of time the lifestyle of bigger training would replicate that assumption.

Our analysis and expertise counsel that the accreditation approach does not, at this time, explicitly elevate criteria, ask crucial issues, or examine facts similar to concerns this kind of as:

  • How extensive does credit rating analysis choose at your institution? Do college students know which of their credits will apply to completion of a specified diploma at the time of registration?
  • How equitable are results for pupils who transfer to your institution? In what means have you disaggregated institutional information to recognize distinctions in activities and results?
  • How several credits are applied to degree completion, notably for college students coming from key transfer associates?
  • Do college students who transfer get equitable college student supports and financial aid?
  • What indicators is this institution working with to figure out if it requires to boost credit mobility?

Some of the Hares are “much amused at the thought of working a race with the Tortoise,” and sense that modifying accreditation will acquire much too lengthy. We concur that partaking accreditors is not the only technique to go after, and stimulate our colleagues all-around the nation to concurrently contemplate alterations these as economical incentives for institutions, technologies solutions, and new strategies of thinking about equitable affordability.

But we also point to some history–the way that accreditors have shifted to embrace studying outcomes assessment, for case in point. There was a time when accreditation metrics targeted on inputs–such as faculty credentials and the variety of textbooks in the library–as markers of high-quality. The strategy of measuring learning results was fulfilled with severe resistance–some may even say disdain. Accreditation’s embrace of learning outcomes assessment performed a major part in changing attitudes and society accreditation metrics now reflect an expectation that mastering results evaluation will “produce information handy for and utilized to institutional strengthening.” Our hope is that accreditation can likewise travel a society alter centered on credit mobility and transfer that matches the magnitude of shifting from inputs to understanding outcomes, although usually keeping top quality entrance and heart.

“We” Are the “Them”

Accreditation engages key institutional stakeholders–including faculty–in discussions of good quality and conclusion-producing about irrespective of whether institutions satisfy accreditation specifications. Elevating discussions about credit score mobility and fairness in results for students who transfer through accreditation is, by definition, a process that will engage the coronary heart and soul of postsecondary institutions. It is a lever for stimulating adjust from within that is far more possible to permeate the tradition of an establishment and result in extended-expression, sustainable alter.

All through our careers as equally college and administrators, as we have wrestled with credit mobility, we have frequently read colleagues state “our accreditor won’t enable us.” Some institutional actors anxiety doing the incorrect matter since they concern it will effects the over-all establishment negatively, and as a final result, they prevent getting methods that could make improvements to college student activities and outcomes. From our practical experience, “our accreditor will not enable us” can also be a pink herring to slow the pace of transform.

Accreditors them selves thrust back on this statement, noting that they goal for high quality in results, and do not dictate how an establishment generates all those outcomes. Stepping back again, we can see that accreditors, in point, share the college student-oriented aims that drive establishments and educators. If we function with accreditors to place the college student, and the mobility of their substantial-top quality discovering at the centre, we hope to split down some of these artificial limitations and generate internally-generated, extensive-phrase adjust.

Maria Hesse is Professor of Observe in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers School and previous Vice Provost (Retired) at Arizona Condition College. Shirleatha Lee is Dean and Professor, Mary Black Endowed Chair for Nursing at University of South Carolina Upstate. Both equally are customers of the Over and above Transfer (formerly Tackling Transfer) Coverage Advisory Board.

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