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Federal Reliance on Voluntary Accreditation 343

8. Establishing criteria for professional certification, licensure, and for upgrading courses offering such preparation; and

9. Providing one basis for determing eligibility for federal assistance.31

The Statutory Bases for Federal Recognition of Private
Accrediting Agencies

The Beginning-The Korean GI Bill



The enactment of the Veteran's Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952** established the basic pattern of official federal recognition of private accrediting agencies although federal reliance on the determinations of such bodies antedates its passage. The Act was, in part, a response to the Korean War, but also a reaction to difficulties encountered with its predecessor-the Servicemens' Readjustment Act of 1944.24 The latter provided for approval of education and training institutions (including institutions of higher education) by state approving agencies or by the Administrator of the Veteran's Administration. Serious difficulties were encountered with slipshod state approval of “fly-by-night” and “blind alley” programs,' although this was not generally a problem in higher education." The House select committee investigating the administration of the GI Bill focussed almost entirely on non-collegiate education and recommended further Congressional attention to the strengthening of educational standards and the clarification of respective jurisdiction of Veterans' Administration and state approving agencies." The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs produced a draft bill, noted in the subsequent hearings, which would continue the reliance on state approving agencies but would provide that such agencies may approve courses offered by an institution where they have been approved by a nationally recognized accrediting agency. It went on to provide that:

* CRITERIA AND PROCEDURES, supra, note 11 at 1. "PUB. L. 82-550, 66 Stat. 663 (1952).

"E.g., the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, 64 Stat. 149, 81st Cong., 2d Sess. (1950) allowed the foundation to award fellowships for scientific study at accredited institutions of higher education.

Pub. L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284.

*See Hearings Before the House Select Committee to Investigate Educational and Training Programs Under GI Bill, 81st Cong., 2nd Seas. (1951) and H.R. REP. No. 3253, 81st Cong. 2nd Sess. (1951). As the Acting Comptroller General reported to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, "Experience under the existing program shows that State approval of educational institutions has in many instances been no more than a 'rubber stamp' process." Hearings Before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 82nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 1104 (1952). "ADMINISTRATION OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS & THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, REPORT RELATIVE TO THE ORIGINAL SOUND INTENTS OF THE SERVICEMANS' READJUSTMENT ACT, H.R. Doc. No. 466, 81st Cong., 2nd Sess. 6 (1950), H.R. REP. No. 3253, 81st Cong., 2nd Sess. 9 (1951).

H.R. REP. No. 3253, 81st Cong., 2nd Sess. 29 (1951).


Journal of Law--Education

Vol. 2, No. 3 For the purposes of this Act the Administrator [of Veterans' Affairs] shall publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations which he determines to be reliable authority as to the quality of training offered....2


It also provided detailed requirements for state approving agencies to utilize in approving non-accredited courses. A number of bills were introduced containing identical language. Others had been introduced constituting variations on the original GI Bill without these accreditation provisions. 30

In the course of the hearings in the house a number of organizations urged that a role be provided the Office of Education in the administration of the statute." The National Education Association entered a vigorous endorsement82 and a more subdued one was given by the president of Union College on behalf of the American Council on Education, observing:

At the present moment I can say that our policy has always been to endorse the program which the Office of Education has followed throughout its history of being nondictatorial, but of seeking to bring about cooperation among the various State organizations. Their policy has been one of advice and council [sic] of reserve and of general help to the agencies rather than of attempting to dictate from Washington... 33

The American Legion would have preferred to give veto authority over approval to the Veterans' Administration as would the Bureau of the Budget but the representatives of both AMVETS and the Veterans of

❤Hearings Before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Educational and Training and Other Benefits for Veterans Serving on or after June 27, 1950, 82nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 1011 (1952).

H.R. 6425; H.R. 6426; H.R. 6427; H.R. 6428; H.R. 6362 and H.R. 6474, 82nd Cong., 2nd Sess. (1952).

"H.R. 5040, 82nd Cong., 1st Sess. (1951), H.R. 5038, 82nd Cong., 1st Sess. (1951). "Notably the National Veterans' Education Association, Hearings, supra note 28 at 1174, and the National Council of Chief State School Officers. Id. at 1682.

"The United States Office of Education is the one Federal agency that has long-established channels and experience in dealing with educational institutions. American education at all levels is accustomed to working with the Office of Education and has complete confidence in the professional ability and integrity of the agency. Thus, the National Education Association believes that the delegation to the United States Office of Education of administrative responsibility for an educational program of the type and scope now being considered by the veterans' committee would be a major safeguard against abuses of the law by educational institutions of questionable status."

Letter from the Executive Secretary, National Education Association. Id. at 1195.

Id. at 1577.

Id. at 1474.

Id. at 1435-1436.

" Id. at 1544.

July 1973


Federal Reliance on Voluntary Accreditation Foreign Wars favored some role for the Office of Education, the former explicitly rejecting a veto authority for the VA.

The Commissioner of Education opined that control of education should remain a state responsibility and that “modest supervisory responsibility" be given his office as the agency of government having wellestablished relationships with the educational establishments in the States. 38 He envisioned that role as being more one of persuasion than control and suggested that separate categories be established with differing controls for programs "administered by accredited colleges and universities" as opposed to the others embraced by such omnibus legislation." Accordingly, the Commissioner was requested to submit a draft bill embodying his thinking. Under it, each state would designate a state Veterans' Education Commission composed of persons "broadly representative of the public interest, the principal educational agency of the state government, and of the several educational and training interests involved...." Each commission should develop a state plan embodying acceptable standards and procedures for approving institutions including, however, a proscription of discrimination based on race or national origin. It would approve or disapprove institutions on the basis of inspections and objective findings of fact and establish procedures for considering appeals from those decisions. The Commissioner of Education would have authority to approve or disapprove the state plans so submitted and if none were submitted or if the state were operating in violation of its plan the Commissioner would have the authority to undertake the functions of the state commission."1

After the hearings, the committee staff held conferences with interested government agencies on sixteen occasions in an effort to draft legislation reflecting the suggestions made in the hearings. The bill reported out would have allowed the Commissioner of Education to approve courses where the state failed to designate a state approving agency and would have continued the provisions on accreditation embodied in the Committee's earlier draft, save that the Commissioner of Education rather than the Veterans' Administrator would have been given responsibility for designating nationally recognized accrediting agencies and publishing the list of those so found." The Office's proposed statutory function in developing

Id. at 1510.

Id. at 1354, 1356.

❤Id. at 1355. He had earlier noted that the degree of abuse is in “direct ratio to the degree that established and accredited institutions of education have been involved." Id. at 1353.

* §302(a) (1) of the Commissioner's proposed Veterans' Education Act of 1952. Id. at 1555


"Id. at 1556-1557.

"H.R. REP. No. 1943, 82nd Cong., 2nd Sess. 24 (1952), 98 CONG. REC. 6378 (1952) (remarks of Representative Rankin introducing the bill).

"H.R. REP. No. 1943, supra, note 42.

346 Journal of Law-Education

Vol. 2, No. 3

cooperative agreements between the VA and State approving agencies, reviewing their operations and giving technical assistance to them, was haled by the Federal Security Agency, of which the Office of Education was then a part, as “potentially the most useful for the program” ** and was vigorously opposed by the Veterans' Administration.15 On this, the committee observed:

It is to be emphasized that the contemplated function of the Office of Education is of a professional character only and it is not the intent of this subsection to give any veto to the Office of Education or to interfere fundamentally with the administrative authority vested in the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs."

Interestingly, the VA did approve the accreditation provision.“

In conference, the VA retained the course approval authority which the House bill had given the Commissioner, but the latter's role in accreditation was retained." Large issues loomed in the Congressional debates and the matter of accreditation was touched if at all only tangentially." Some stress was placed, however, on the reduction in “red tape" resulting from a simplified administrative scheme of the act.50

As enacted, the Korean GI Bill required states to designate State ap proving agencies and if they failed to do so the VA Administrator would assume those functions. It authorized the State approving agencies to ap prove courses offered by an institution when they "have been accredited and approved by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association" "1 and provided that the Commissioner of Education “shall publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations which he determines to be reliable authority as to the quality of training offered by an educational institution...." 62 It also authorized state approval of non-accredited courses after the submission of requisite information and an investigation that statutory standards are met." These included

Id. at 97-98.

"Id. at 111-112.

"Id. at 35.

"Id. at 110.

H.R. RIP. No. 2481, 82nd Cong., 2nd Sess. (1952).

"Senator Hill pointed out that the measure "prescribes better and higher standards which schools must meet," 98 Cong. Rec. 8414 (1952) but in response to an inquiry from Senator Bridges as to who is to decide the standards he made no square reference to private accreditation. Id.

➡98 CONC. REC. 6395 (1952) (remarks of Representative Teague), 98 Conc. Rec. 6641 (1952) (remarks of Representative Donohue), 98 Conc. Rec. 6638 (1952) (NEA position on reduction of administrative expenses put in record by Representative Rankin) and 98 Conc. REC. 6640 (1952) (analysis of American Council on Education focusing on reduced costs put in record by Representative Rankin).

"The Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952, Pub. L. 82-550, §253 (1952). Id.

Id. at §254.

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Federal Reliar.ce on Voluntary Accreditation 347

inter alia adequate space and personnel, adequate educational experience and qualifications of administration and faculty, compliance with local fire, building and sanitation codes, good reputation, financial stability and instruction consistent in quality, content, and length with similar courses in public schools and other private schools with recognized standards.


On September 17, 1952, the Commissioner of Education published the criteria, developed after "consultation with an advisory group of educators," for recognition as a national accrediting agency. These required inter alia that: the scope of the organization be national or regional (i.e., encompassing several states); it serve a definite need; it perform no function that might prejudice its independent judgment; it make available to the public current information on its standards, operations and accredited programs or institutions; it only accredit institutions which are found on examination to meet pre-established standards; it has some experience in accrediting; and, it has gained general acceptance of its criteria and decisions. In addition, five procedural requirements were set out concerning the acquisition of information, use of qualified visitors, financial stability and re-evaluation. Recognition was conditioned on the assurance that accreditation will not be conditioned on the payment of any sum apart from any reasonable charges it might have, not exceeding the actual cost of accreditation.

The established criteria seem to fall well within the statutory authorization. Congress had been assured of the reliability of the standards and determinations of accrediting associations and was concerned for the

"17 Fed. Reg. 8929 (1952) (error corrected at 17 Fed. Reg. 8994 (1952)). Attached was a list of the six regional associations and 22 specialized agencies recognized pursuant to the criteria. *Note the following colloquy between Representative Teague, who had chaired the earlier House investigation into abuses of the GI Bill and was a sponsor of H.R. 6425 supra, note 29, and Mr. Sam Coile, Assistant Administrator for Vocational Rehabilitation of the Veterans' Administration, in Hearings Before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, supra note 28 at 1331-32:

Mr. Teague: Mr. Coile, would you tell us a little about nonaccredited courses and the approval of nonaccredited courses?

Mr. Coile: You refer to institutions of higher learning?

Mr. Teague: Yes.

Mr. Coile: Well of course, the accrediting associations establish high standards in regard to courses of instruction that are provided by the members that are accredited by the associations. I think that is a very fine safeguard in respect to institutions of higher learning.

Mr. Teague: What about nonaccredited courses?

Mr. Coile: Nonaccredited courses in colleges?

Mr. Teague: In colleges, public, private, profit and nonprofit.

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Mr. Coile: I think the law ought to contain minimum safeguards....

Mr. Teague: Do you believe that nonaccredited courses should be consistent with the

quality and content and length of similar courses?

Mr. Coile: I see no reason for them to be lower in their standards. ....

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