Obamechanic Tinkers with Colleges; Education Commissar Wants Institutions to Seek Federal Accreditation

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 4, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Obamechanic Tinkers with Colleges; Education Commissar Wants Institutions to Seek Federal Accreditation


Byline: Robert Knight, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When I was in college, a professor from the Middle East was giving me advice in his office.

He said, My son (he fancied himself a mentor), truth comes in three colors: blonde, brunette and redhead. At the time, I was unmarried, and it seemed to make sense, although I was leery because of his reputation as a skirt-chaser. I wanted to get married, not start a harem.

Today, truth on campus may be coming in only one color: red.

The Obama administration seems determined to bring academia under the government's heavy hand. You'd think President Obama would leave it alone, because most college professors probably voted for him. But wait. The real aim seems to be to politicize the academy even more.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants all schools that accept federal student aid to have a license from a state agency that would list authorized institutions. Anyone else would be out of luck. The state agencies would follow federal guidelines, of course.

Mr. Duncan laid out this and other proposed rules in an Aug. 13 letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, and Sen. Michael Enzi, Wyoming Republican, who held hearings on federal student assistance programs in June.

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Association of Christian Schools International and the American Council on Education (ACE) all oppose the new rules. In a 17-page critique, the ACE, which represents 70 higher-education associations and accrediting agencies, praised Mr. Duncan for regulations aimed at stopping fraud and abuse but then warned about their breadth and the heavy compliance burdens they will impose.

For example, ACE notes that a single anecdote is the basis for the Department's proposal to require 6,000 institutions to accept a federal definition of 'credit hour' and require all recognized accrediting agencies to assume a greatly enhanced role in policing institutional procedures.

Translation: Are you out of your minds? Nobody could determine a one-size-fits-all credit hour for the entire nation. Not even Mao Zedong, Anita Dunn's favorite philosopher.

Unless Congress short-circuits this plan, the new rules will be finalized by Nov. 1 and take effect July 1, 2011.

Another rule, the ACE said, would eliminate due process and allow the secretary of education to bar a college from federal Title IV programs without providing notice, hearing or appeal.

That commissar-type power should strike terror in the hearts of even the most ardent Obama fans on campus. But some folks on the left probably can't wait to work the new system.

Former Colorado Republican Sens. Bill Armstrong and Hank Brown write in the Denver Post, "The department's power grab carries with it an implicit invitation for various pressure groups to seek legal mandates requiring colleges and universities to implement their pet theories about curriculum, degree requirements, faculty qualifications, teaching methods, textbooks, evolution, phonics, ROTC, climate change, family policy, abortion, race, sexual orientation, economic theory, etc. .. This assault on academic freedom and institutional autonomy is a slap in the face to regional accreditation agencies whose

peer reviews have been bulwarks of integrity and academic quality for decades Loss of accreditation is literally a death sentence.

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