[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today urged the Higher Learning Commission to reconsider its approval of Ashford University's request for accreditation.  Earlier this week, the publicly-traded company Bridgepoint Education disclosed that the regional accreditor, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), had denied Ashford University in its bid for accreditation.  WASC found that spending on student recruitment at Ashford University far outweighed the amount of money spent on student education.

 

“WASC denied Ashford University’s accreditation stating that Ashford University had failed to demonstrate compliance with multiple aspects of WASC’s standards of accreditation,” said Durbin.  “WASC further described concerns about Ashford University’s retention and completion rates, alignment of resources and lack of sufficient faculty.  Despite WASC’s findings, the Higher Learning Commission continues to accredit Ashford University, which raises concerns about the Higher Learning Commission’s own standards of accreditation.”

 

In a separate letter to the President of Ashford University, Durbin asked what steps the University will be taking to address the concerns outlined in the WASC review.  Specifically, Durbin requested information on plans to improve: current attrition levels, support for student achievement, and inadequate levels of degree completion; adequacy and alignment of resources with education purposes; adequacy of Ashford faculty model and role of faculty; and assessment of student learning and assuring academic rigor.

 

Finally, Durbin sent a letter to the WASC commending them for their decision saying: “Many of us in Congress are working to help raise the standards of postsecondary education. The propriety sector has grown faster than any other sector and warrants careful scrutiny.  We have limited federal resources for student financial aid, making it imperative that participating institutions offer their students quality education, clear information about their financial obligations, and appropriate educational support.   Accreditors can serve as effective partners in this effort.”

 

Text of the letters below:

 

July 13, 2012

 

Ms. Sylvia Manning

President

The Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500

Chicago, IL 60604-1413

 

Dear Ms. Manning:

 

The regional accreditor, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), recently denied Ashford University’s application for accreditation, yet the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has accredited the same programs at Ashford.  This development raises questions about the standards of accreditation WASC and HLC bring to the process and suggests the HLC accreditation findings ought to be reviewed. 

 

As Ashford University’s current regional accreditor, I urge you to perform careful review of Ashford University, reconsider your approval for its accreditation and make findings of your review public.

 

WASC denied Ashford University’s accreditation stating that Ashford University had failed to demonstrate compliance with multiple aspects of WASC’s standards of accreditation. WASC further described concerns about Ashford University’s retention and completion rates, alignment of resources and lack of sufficient faculty.  Despite WASC’s findings, the Higher Learning Commission continues to accredit Ashford University, which raises concerns about the Higher Learning Commission’s own standards of accreditation.

 

Many of us in Congress are working to help raise the standards of postsecondary education. The propriety sector has grown faster than any other sector and warrants careful scrutiny.  We have limited federal resources for student financial aid, making it imperative that participating institutions offer their students quality education, clear information about their financial obligations, and appropriate educational support.   The Higher Learning Commission can be an effective partner in this effort with a careful and transparent review of Ashford University’s accreditation status.

 

Sincerely,

 

Richard Durbin

US Senator

 

July 13, 2012

 

Dr. Elizabeth Tice

President

Ashford University

400 North Bluff Blvd. 
Clinton, IA 52732

 

Dear Dr. Tice:

 

The Western Association of Schools and College’s (WASC) recent decision to deny Ashford University’s application for accreditation raises serious concerns about the academic quality and integrity of Ashford University’s programs.  More to the point, this decision raises serious concerns about the value of the education Ashford students are receiving.  In the interest of ensuring a quality education for current and future students, please provide information on specific actions that Ashford University is taking to address the concerns WASC outlined in its review.

 

In particular, please detail plans the University has to improve:

 

  • current attrition levels, support for student achievement, and inadequate levels of degree completion;
  • adequacy and alignment of resources with education purposes;
  • adequacy of Ashford faculty model and role of faculty; and
  • assessment of student learning and assuring academic rigor.

 

Many of us in Congress are working to help raise the standards of postsecondary education. We have limited federal resources for student financial aid, making it imperative that participating institutions offer their students quality education, clear information about their financial obligations, and appropriate educational support.   Thank you for your consideration of this request.  I look forward to your prompt response. 

 

Sincerely,


Richard Durbin

U.S. Senator

 

July 13, 2012

 

Mr. Ralph A. Wolff

President

Western Association of Schools and Colleges

985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94501

 

Dear Mr. Wolff:

 

I commend the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ (WASC) thorough review of Ashford University and, based on its findings, the decision to deny Ashford University accreditation.   WASC’s commitment to academic quality and integrity can serve as an example to other accreditors.

 

Accreditation agencies such as yours serve as the gateway to federal funding, and students rely on the seal of approval you provide.  Current law affords accrediting agencies wide latitude in determining standards of academic quality and approval processes.  The federal government, taxpayers, and students depend on your judgment and performance in weeding out low-performing institutions. Your decision regarding Ashford University’s accreditation status demonstrates how our accreditation system should work.

 

Many of us in Congress are working to help raise the standards of postsecondary education. The propriety sector has grown faster than any other sector and warrants careful scrutiny.  We have limited federal resources for student financial aid, making it imperative that participating institutions offer their students quality education, clear information about their financial obligations, and appropriate educational support.   Accreditors can serve as effective partners in this effort.


Sincerely,

 

Richard Durbin

U.S. Senator
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