'Accreditation' by Association?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by chydenius, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. chydenius

    chydenius New Member

    On Mark Skousen's website, there is an interview with Mark Skousen by Gabriella Barufi, Editor of Columbia Business School's BottomLine from 15 September 2005. His affiliation with Grantham is discussed rather extensively. "Prof. Skousen will play a key role in further developing the business school curriculum."

    Dr. Skousen is a bit of a star among fans of the Austrian School of Economics. The biography posted on his website suggests that he is not a total crank. According to his biography, he currently is teaching Economics at Columbia University.

    So, here's my question:

    Are we seeing the beginnings of a decentralized process of indicating legitimacy in education that is independent of regional accreditation?

    It has been suggested on DegreeInfo that credential evaluators function as an alternative to regional accreditation. They have the expertise to rate universities abroad; and I have seen some of the slipshod things that go on inside regionally-accredited schools.

    One step further along this path is affiliation with established Names.

    I am being intentionally vague here. I am not driving at any particular point. I am grappling with the question of whether this is analogous to Linux-vs-Microsoft or if it is a slippery slope.
  2. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    No, I don't think so.
  3. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Originally posted by chydenius
    Are we seeing the beginnings of a decentralized process of indicating legitimacy in education that is independent of regional accreditation?

    Most of Nationally Accredited Universities in USA are independent from regional accreditation.
    I think that this indicates a level of tolerance and aceptability of
    one university on case by case situation and not a policy.
    This also indicates that unaccredited universities understand that their time is running out and if they cant achieve valid accreditation they better have something to hang on to.
    Adult mid caarrer students have more than ever choices to get education and earn fully accredited degrees.

    The market is shrinking.

    CCU and couple of others knew its time to get accredited, they even sacrificed temporary their post graguate programs.

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 6, 2005
  4. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Well, accreditation is the most widely recognized and most formalized method of academic credibility verification. But it isn't necessarily the only way that goal can be accomplished.

    But all in all, my answer would have to be the same as Jack's: 'No'. Considerations other than accreditation might be persuasive for some people in some situations, but I don't think that we can generalize it into some kind of new process.

    I don't know who has suggested that, but I disagree with it pretty strongly. Credential evaluators aren't accreditors and shouldn't be confused with them. They do NOT have the expertise to "rate universities abroad". To accomplish that, the evaluators would have to get up off their Lazyboys and make international site visits, subjecting foreign universities to the same scrutiny that accreditors lavish on domestic schools. They don't do that.

    Sometimes that's useful, but often it's misleading. Often 'established names' are kind of clueless outside their own field of expertise. So questionable 'universities' contact a bunch of established professors and ask if they would be willing to help mentor a few graduate students occasionally. Some of the names say 'Yeah sure, why not'. So next thing you know, they are prominently displayed on a degree-mill's faculty listing, casting their radiance over the school without having done any work for them at all.

    Of course, names can sometimes be persuasive. Personally, I'm strongly moved by the fact that University of the West (a CA-approved school that I'm fond of) lured a big-time international class scholar from UC Berkeley to be its President. He's the kind of academic star whose presence automatically puts a program on the map. But this new university is busily seeking regional accreditation (it's currently a candidate) and isn't trying to suggest that its faculty and administrators names somehow substitute for accreditation.

    Besides names, I look for signs of intellectual life at questioned institutions. Especially if they offer graduate degrees, I want to see publications, research collaborations, visiting scholars and stuff like that. I look for research groups' webpages. Grants and awards are pretty persuasive. And I like to see favorable notice on academic websites, from professional organizations, in the trade press and by government agencies.

    Google is your friend. If you are halfway sophisticated in interpreting your results, you can discover a great deal about a questioned school.

    Actually, that process works for accredited schools too. You can discover what problems various departments are working on, what their scholarly orientations are, who is talking about their work and so on. It's kind of like X-raying a university department.

    In some cases you find that programs are hollow, that there's nothing visible there. In other cases you discover some fascinating and exciting things. I definitely prefer the latter.

    But bottom line, I don't think that kind of stuff really substitutes very effectively for accreditation, though it might reveal some utility in special cases among those who are familiar with the school.
  5. chydenius

    chydenius New Member

    Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    heh... I've seen this, especially in the non-profit and political advocacy world.

    Then again, how different is this from the process of buying legitimacy that we see, when some no-name school gets a load of money from some self-made zillionaire, and builds its reputation by hiring a bunch of Names?

    I'm not advocating any one-size-fits-all solutions here. I am simply exploring the spectrum of legitimacy.

    As I've mentioned elsewhere in these forums, I work for a regionally-accredited postsecondary institution. Some of what I see, and even more that I hear by the water cooler, proves -- to paraphrase Otto von Bismark -- that those who like sausage and education should never see how either is made.

    This is exactly what I am grappling with. Where would Claremont be, without Peter Drucker? Where would George Mason be without James Buchanan? (And, what were they thinking at UNLV, when they hired Hans Hoppe and Murray Rothbard, but I digress...)

    Another interesting case is Francisco Marroquin (UFM) in Guatemala. One might or might not give UFM a second thought; I mean... Guatemala? But, what have we here? They have an impressive roster of professors in their doctoral program in Economics.

    George Selgin and Lawrence White are very well-known in the field of monetary theory. Peter Boettke is co-editor of an introductory textbook that has been around in various editions for more than thirty years. This is not entirely irrelevant, when trying to decide whether earning a PhD at UFM would be a good thing or a bad thing.

    So, here's the thought experiment that has been bugging me:

    Imagine for a moment that the operators of Kennedy Western (KWU) [booo... hisss...] convinced some Names of the same calibre as UFM's that it was high time that KWU entered the mainstream. How would this be different from some sleazy -- but regionally-accredited -- no-name little academy in the woods doing the same?

    Again, I am not promoting a particular conclusion here.

    I don't mean to be a gadfly here, but that high a standard would knock a lot of regionally-accredited schools out of the running.

    I wholeheartedly advocate the principle of caveat emptor. But, you sort of prove my point here. Accreditation is not sufficient proof of value in education. Granted, it is not worthless, in general. However, I am not comparing the Harvard Medical School to the Metropolitan Collegiate Institute. I am looking at that grey area in the middle, where shoddy-but-accredited schools overlap with quality-but-unaccredited schools.

    Graduate schools and employers accept the degrees of regionally accredited schools without question, whereas -- even if the education were of the highest quality (and, I am not asserting that it is) -- graduates of the Mark Skousen Business School will have a much more difficult time getting their DETC-accredited credentials accepted.
  6. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Non-ABA Concord Law School hired a major ABA maven. They also claim to use big name law professors to develop their curriculum.
  7. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    Without specific schools being referenced I have trouble believing this. Name two quality-but-unaccredited schools (that are not pursuing accreditation) that you feel are superior to two shoddy-but-accredited schools.
  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    Yes, I'd like to see those names, too, along with the poster's explanation of why he/she thinks this is so.
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    What's wrong with improving facilities and staff? I wouldn't dismiss that as "buying legitimacy".

    I don't think that obscure accredited schools are equivalent to Kennedy-Western, which seems to be your unstated assumption. So they wouldn't be starting from the same place.

    But yeah, I suppose that K-W could successfully address its deficiencies and become accreditation-equivalent. That's not impossible.

    Of course, the question would still remain: how can people who are unfamiliar with the school assure themselves that the equivalence actually exists?

    You just contradicted yourself.

    I never suggested that accreditation isn't sufficient proof of value in education. I think that in the vast majority of cases it is.

    But that doesn't imply that every accredited school has the same offerings, that all departments in the same field have the same orientation, or that all departments have strengths in the same areas.

    In other words, while all accredited schools are credible in my opinion, some might be more attractive to some people than others, for a whole variety of often individual reasons.

    It's conceivable that a few unaccredited programs might be attractive to people for individual reasons as well. But as long as these schools remain unknown to the wider community, their diplomas and degrees won't be as widely accepted.
  10. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    The old trusty example of a quality-but-unaccredited school that people would typically reference is Bob Jones University. Since BJU's announcement that they are pursuing accreditation, I'll be especially interested to see what examples are available.
  11. chydenius

    chydenius New Member

    There's nothing wrong with it, per se. George Mason University (GMU) has done a stellar job of going from being a commuter college with aspirations to the home of Nobel Prize winners James Buchanan and Vernon Smith, not to mention Gordon Tullock and Robin Hanson.

    GMU has not produced any Nobel Laureates or Fed Chairmen, yet, but they have spent a lot of money beefing up their faculty.

    That's what I meant by 'buying legitimacy'. It is not an indictment, just an observation.

    That was not my assumption. I would not call obscure, poorly run schools that cook their books equivalent to Kennedy-Western. It is entirely possible that Kennedy-Western is more honest than some schools that have not yet lost their accreditation.

    I was thinking more in terms of reputation than curriculum delivery.

    How do you think that I contradicted myself?

    My one statement, "Again, I am not promoting a particular conclusion here," was referring to my analyzing the gray area between low-end accredited schools and high-end non-accredited schools.

    My other statement, "I wholeheartedly advocate the principle of caveat emptor. But, you sort of prove my point here. Accreditation is not sufficient proof of value in education," was in reference to your pointing out the advisability of doing background checks on accredited schools that one is not very familiar with already.

    I don't understand. When you suggested googling around to see if one can dig up dirt on a school, you clearly were suggesting that accreditation isn't sufficient proof of value in education. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any need to do background checks; the accreditation would be sufficient proof.

    Anyway, are agreeing strenuously on a minor point. I will stipulate that, in the vast majority of cases, regional accreditation and legitimacy go hand-in-hand.

    For example, in my search for PhD programs, I am restricting myself to AACSB-accredited schools. I acknowledge that there might be at least one shoddy business school accredited by AACSB, but I want to be able to seek employment at universities where that is a requirement.

    However, my post was not about the majority of the cases, but about the much more interesting border cases.

    It is my experience that not all regionally-accredited schools are credible. I would rather lose debate points by not naming names that I am familiar with than risk inviting litigation by naming them.

    The action notices on regional accreditors' websites, however, are not devoid of schools on probation or that have lost their accreditation.

    Right, that is precisely what I am driving at. There was a time that Linux had to be snuck into corporate IT departments by renegade staff. Now, Linux is giving Microsoft a run for its money.

    I am wondering if a school like Grantham or some other nationally- or non-accredited school might not gain wider acceptance over time through affiliation with someone like Mark Skousen.

    As Bill Huffman pointed out, Bob Jones University has operated in what I have been referring to as a gray area.

    In all fairness to regional accreditation, the peer review process does seem to weed out the baddies, eventually. There is nothing quite so efficient as being scrutinized by jury of one's competitors.
  12. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    From your response, I assume that you are taking back your statement that there's an overlapping of unaccredited schools and accredited schools on the hypothetically sorted list.
  13. chydenius

    chydenius New Member

    Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    We haven't been exactly scientific about which dimension, along which we are aligning this spectrum.

    Maybe a 2x2 matrix would be a more appropriate model here. One side will be accredited vs unaccredited, the perpendicular side will be legitimate vs shoddy. Put accredited/legitimate in the upper-left quadrant and unaccredited/shoddy in the lower-right.

    My contention is that there are schools in all four quadrants. Although, some quadrants might be more densely populated than others.

    My implicit spectrum runs diagonally through this matrix from accredited/legitimate through unaccredited/shoddy. The middle part of this one-dimensional spectrum corresponds with accredited/shoddy and unaccredited/legitimate, when you view the matrix edge-on.

    So, in this sense, there is some overlap. However, now that you have pointed out the sloppiness of my analysis, I prefer to debate in terms of this 2x2 matrix.
  14. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    You opened this thread by asking, "Are we seeing the beginnings of a decentralized process of indicating legitimacy in education that is independent of regional accreditation?"

    I said, 'no'. While there are all kinds of considerations besides accreditation, I don't think that they can be generalized into a new process.

    Then I went on to describe how I use Google to get a feel for what unaccredited schools are up to and mentioned some of the things that I look for.

    The point isn't to dig up dirt on a school, it's just the opposite, to discover the school's cool features, the interesting things that it's doing, and who else is responding positively to it.

    Then I said that Googling accredited schools is informative as well. In fact, it provides information that prospective graduate students really need to know, such as the research interests of the department, how it approaches it's subject, who it's in collaboration with and so on.

    Again, my point isn't to do "background checks" or to suggest that accreditation is an insufficient indicator of legitimacy. It's to get a better feeling for particular schools, departments and programs, and for whether an individual (myself in this case) would be a good fit there.
  15. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member


    Yet ANOTHER thread beating this tired (but obviously still living) horse.

    You know what, though, folks, the bottom line for a lot of posters here runs something like, "Should I enroll in (unaccredited) Blank University's Master of Deep Fried Science program or not?"

    In general, unless there're really OVERWHELMING factors in BlankU's favor, the answer is, "No!" Why? Because BU's program will either

    1) Be the approximate equivalent of a similar accredited program, in which case you will do ALL THAT WORK and end up with a degree that might bite you in the posterior one of these days...


    2) Be significantly less rigorous, in which case you will NOT do the work and end up with a degree the use of which is dishonest at the least and could constitute criminal fraud.

    Either way, the student loses.

    BlankU, however, gets your money. And that's plenty genuine!
  16. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    I understand your matrix definition but I became lost thereafter. That is the last two paragraphs. I do not understand your spectrum, what viewing the matrix edge on means, where the overlap is, nor what we might debate about your 2x2 matrix.
  17. chydenius

    chydenius New Member

    Re: Re: Re: 'Accreditation' by Association?

    Perhaps, I overstated my original case. I did not mean to suggest that regional accreditation will be cast aside.

    For-profit, proprietary education has met with resistance. It used to be that for-profit schools were not eligible for government funding in the USA. In many areas outside the USA, for-profit higher education is effectivelly banned.

    Over time, for-profit higher education has gained some acceptance.

    A similar story can be told for distance education. We have had accreditors come through our offices -- mostly national accreditors of specific professional programs -- who admitted that, when they arrived, they were loaded for bear. They didn't believe that distance education could work.

    Our current-student, graduate, and employer surveys, along with our professional certification pass rates established the fact that actual education was taking place.

    In the debriefing sessions, the message has been consistent: they didn't think that is was possible, they were convinced that they would nail us to the boards, we are doing a very good job.

    This is all a long way of saying that what was once dismissed out-of-hand can work its way into the mainstream.

    This gets me back to Grantham University (GU). Let us assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that real education is taking place at the Mark Skousen Business School. Will need to seek regional accreditation, in order for its students' credentials to count for anything, or will the bounds of acceptability expand enough to include DETC-accredited schools.

    Granted, the future is unknowable, but it is not unimaginable.

    This is a minor point that you and I disagree on. It is not a deal-killer. In the vast majority of cases, accreditation corresponds with legitimacy. Princeton University, University of Georgia, and University of Phoenix are all accredited and assumed to be legitimate.

    My focus here is on the schools that concentrate their recruitment efforts on the unsophisticated. Some regionally-accredited school engage more in indoctrination than in education. Some non-regionally-accredited schools engage in real education.


    In general, this will be the case.

    My question is whether Skousen's relationship with Grantham -- or some other Name/School combination more to one's liking, if one is unimpressed with Skousen's work -- qualifies as overwhelming.

    It is much easier on a whiteboard.

    The debate about the 2x2 matrix is whether any schools would be listed in the accredited/shoddy quadrant or in the unaccredited/legitimate quadrant.

    There does seem to be some disagreement on this.

    My experience is that there are accredited/shoddy schools (i.e., accreditation is not a sufficient indicator of legitimacy). I suspect that there are unaccredited/legitimate schools, other than Bob Jones (i.e., accreditation is not a necessary indicator of legitimacy).
  18. chydenius

    chydenius New Member


    That should have been:

    Will GRANTHAM need to seek regional accreditation, in order for its students' credentials to count for anything, or will the bounds of acceptability expand enough to include DETC-accredited schools?
  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

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