Monday, January 5, 2015

The GAO Puts Watson's One Achievement Into Perspective

If Chicago State does not have the worst administrative “team” in higher education, it certainly ranks near the bottom. No need to again chronicle the myriad failures of Wayne Watson and his friends and lovers who run the school. Given the scope of his administrative failure, it is not surprising that he and his sycophants continuously bring up the university’s reaccreditation, since that is the major accomplishment that has occurred on his watch.

I have argued that Chicago State’s reaccreditation was really no more than what should have been expected of a school that has been accredited for decades. The faculty and staff at this university know their business and we would have received accreditation regardless of who sat in the President’s office in the Cook Building. While that is not to say that accreditation is not a major project, a successful outcome of that process is only to be expected. It seems the least the students, staff and faculty can expect.

Despite the hyperbolic reports in the media, Chicago State was never in danger of losing its accreditation and Wayne Watson and his administration did not “save” the school from that catastrophic prospect.

A recently released report by the Government Accountability Office underscores those points.
Titled “Higher Education: Education Should Strengthen Oversight of Schools and Accreditors,” the report offers a number of observations about the inadequacy of the accreditation process. Most important, the report points out the statistical improbability of any school ever having its accreditation terminated by any of the accrediting bodies. The GAO found all this troubling, writing: “GAO’s analysis raises questions about whether the standards accreditors use ensure that schools provide a quality education, and whether Education is effectively determining if these standards ensure educational quality.” (2)

Of a total of 8187 schools participating in either regional, national or programmatic accreditation programs, between 2009 and 2014, “Over a 4-1/2-year period, accreditors—independent agencies recognized by the Department of Education (Education)—sanctioned about 8 percent of schools for not meeting accreditor standards. They terminated accreditation for about 1 percent of accredited schools.” (2)

During that time period, accreditors sanctioned 621 schools (7.6 percent), placed 328 (4 percent) on probation and terminated the accreditation of 66 schools (.8 percent). (13) Even more noteworthy, the GAO investigation discovered that “Accreditors issued terminations and probations mainly to for-profit schools whose longest programs were 2 years or less, and which enrolled fewer than 1,000 students.” Over 80 percent of terminated schools and 63 percent of schools placed on probation were for-profits, even though for-profit schools make up only about 38 percent of all schools participating in federal student aid programs.” (21)

The GAO reported that 207 of the schools with probation (63.3 percent) and 55 of the 66 schools whose accreditation had been terminated (83.3 percent) were for-pofit schools. (21) The average number of students enrolled in the 66 schools losing their accreditation was 134. (63)

According to the GAO, 62 percent or roughly 5075 schools were either public or non-profit institutions. Thus, the 11 schools in these categories that lost accreditation between 2009 and 2014 constitute .2 percent of that total. Given that the odds against any public or non-profit school losing its accreditation are roughly 500 to 1, Chicago State’s successful reaccreditation effort is hardly surprising.

Link to the GAO report is in this article (page numbers cited refer to the page numbers of the PDF, not the report itself):

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