The future of higher education: Accreditation, financial aid, and more

May 17, 2016
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Financial Aid and FAFSA
Students studying books with a transparent screen of graphs and charts visible in front of each student.

This year’s Annual Meeting featured a comprehensive lineup of thought leaders and compelling keynote presenters including Timothy Egan, National Book Award Winner and New York Times Op-Ed writer; Andy Gomez, Assistant Provost and Dean of International Studies at Miami University; and Manley Begay, Professor at the Northern Arizona University.  Read the executive summaries of these sessions.

One of the highlights of AACRAO’s 102nd Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, was AACRAO Executive Director Mike Reilly’s interview with David Bergeron, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.    

Bergeron shared his views and insights on several public policy issues affecting higher education, including recent efforts to improve accreditation, ideas to revamp the student loan system, and challenges facing the U.S. Department of Education. 


Accreditors during the last year have faced a barrage of criticism due to collective anger over the student debt levels and the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, which held national accreditation until it folded in 2014.  A series of reports showing that $16 billion of federal aid that went to accredited colleges with graduation rates of less than 33 percent.

In higher education, accreditation determines quality.  The current accreditation system focuses on processes and inputs at colleges and universities.  Bergeron believes accreditors should turn their focus to outcomes.  Many institutions have low graduation rates and are extremely expensive.  Such institutions should receive greater attention from accreditors while consistently high performing institutions should receive less. 

Financial Aid

The financial aid process is cumbersome, in some ways harmful to the universal goal of improved access.  For example, the timetable for submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the income data required are believed to limit the postsecondary education options for low- and middle-income students.  The collections process is also costly and inefficient.

Bergeron recommended two changes to the financial aid system:  First, commit to providing federal aid earlier in student’s careers.  The government should tell families how much federal aid they will receive when students enter eighth grade.  The Obama administration has already taken some steps in this direction.  Starting next year students can apply for federal student aid based on their family’s income from two years earlier instead of the immediate prior year.  Students will also be able to submit their FAFSA applications as early as October for the school year beginning the following summer or fall. Second, use wage withholding to collect student loan debt.   

Read the full summary of the conversation with Bergeron.

AACRAO is hosting a series of webinars with NACAC and the College Board this summer to review changes to the FAFSA.

The first webinar "Prepping for Prior-Prior Year," was held in April. Read the summary and view the archived version.

The next webinar, Essential Information for “Road Warriors”: Helping Admission Staff Talk with Students and Families about the 2017 - 2018 FAFSA, will be presented on June 9 @ 2pm ET. Learn more and register here.


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