Magazine article Techniques

A Proprietary View of Standards

Magazine article Techniques

A Proprietary View of Standards

Article excerpt

Training people for careers is a worthy and increasingly important part of the education continuum. Only 5 million of the 26 million new jobs the U.S. Department of Labor expects to be created by 2005 will require a four-year college education. Few would disagree that a changed job market requires workers with new and more specific skills.

Where there seems to be some divergence of opinion is in how we evaluate the schools providing this training. But why? We hold publicly funded schools, private nonprofit schools and proprietary institutions to different standards. The standards for judging the quality of any institution's program should be the same.

There is a misperception in our country that proprietary schools are held to lower accrediting standards than public or private nonprofit institutions, and therefore do not provide a quality education.

There are 7,000 accredited schools in this country, according to the U.S. Department of Education. If we exclude the 500 schools that are accredited for a specific professional field, such as nursing, more than half are accredited by national agencies--one of which is ACCSCT (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology), the commission of which I am executive director. We accredit nearly 850 institutions.

ACCSCT and other recognized national accrediting bodies must meet requirements established by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. One area in which nationally accredited schools currently are meeting a higher standard than regionally accredited schools is performance reporting.

ACCSCT schools, unlike most colleges, are required to report their completion rates. In addition, they report placement rates for specific industries. In 1994, the fifth year for which data are available, our schools reported, and we verified, that two-thirds of their students graduated. Of those, 75 percent found jobs in the area for which they received training.

I am aware of no regional accrediting group that requires public or private colleges to report completion rates or job placement rates.

And even though the Perkins Act requires standards performance measures for postsecondary vocational education, that does not necessarily mean public institutions have them. As Gary Hoachlander noted in the March 1995 Vocational Education journal, "...almost a year and a half after implementation was supposed to begin, local use of performance measures and standards is, at best, sporadic--and in many cases nonexistent. …

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