The Department of Education provided more than $125 billion in federal student aid funds in fiscal year 2016 to help students pay for higher education. To participate in federal student aid programs, postsecondary schools must be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by Education. Accreditors work with Education to oversee participating schools and play a critical role in assessing academic quality. GAO was asked to review the U.S. accreditation system's oversight of academic quality.
A new report released by the General Accountability Office examines (1) the strengths and challenges of the current U.S. accreditation system in overseeing the academic quality of schools, and (2) potential approaches for improving the U.S. accreditation system's oversight of academic quality. GAO convened a roundtable of 18 experts with the help of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a nonprofit agency whose mission includes informing public policy decisions, and surveyed the experts before and after the roundtable meeting. GAO also conducted a literature review, reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations and Education documents, and interviewed Education officials and higher education stakeholders, including academic researchers