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Student Defense Announces Initiative to Promote Student Borrower Protections in Accreditation

Student Defense, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing students’ rights to educational opportunity, today announced the launch of its Quality Assurance Initiative and the publication of three new reports on how accreditors can better protect student borrowers.

“Too many students pursuing higher education see their dreams shattered by unexpected closures or other roadblocks on the way to success,” said Student Defense President Aaron Ament. “Through this initiative, we are looking forward to partnering with accreditors and state authorizers in developing innovative policy interventions to improve student protections.”

More information about the Quality Assurance Initiative, and the three reports published today, is available at:

Accreditors are an important part of the higher education triad, along with states and the U.S. Department of Education. Beyond accreditors’ traditional focus on instructional quality, in recent years it has become clear they are well-positioned to also play a role enhancing consumer protections for students throughout the course of the educational experience.

Supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation, the Quality Assurance Initiative is intended to empower the quality assurance community by ensuring that accreditors are equipped with the tools and methods they need to improve their work on student borrower protections, and to help institutions improve student outcomes.

The launch today includes the publication of three reports:

  • Putting Students and Taxpayers First: An Outcomes-Driven Portfolio Approach to Accreditation; This report explores how accreditors better prevent underperforming and predatory colleges from tapping federal funds, and the need for accreditors to focus more on how students fare at the colleges they oversee. It provides an overview of the current landscape and recent developments, and recommends policy changes for achieving the shared goal of improving the effectiveness of accreditation by putting student interests at the center of reform.
  • School Closures and Student Harms: Recommendations for Accreditors; This paper examines recent closures of colleges and universities, diving into the factors driving closures to historically high rates. It outlines potential policies and procedures that accreditors can adopt to help identify schools at risk of closure, as well as mitigate many of the most harmful consequences for affected students.
  • Nonprofit Conversions and Student Success: Recommendations for Accreditors; This paper looks at the recent trend of for-profit colleges and universities changing their tax status in search of less restrictive statutory and regulatory oversight. Examining several recent conversions, the paper shows that careful accreditor review at such a transitional moment is critical. The paper outlines a variety of recommendations for accreditors overseeing a nonprofit conversion, to help ensure that the changes help, rather than harm, students.