The State’s Role in Ensuring Quality and Consumer Protection in Higher Education: The Case of State Authorization – Medium
Written by: David A. Tandberg, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, Ellie M. Bruecker, University of Wisconsin, and Dustin D. Weeden, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association
The first and foremost role of state higher education agencies (SHEEO agencies) is to advance the state’s interest through postsecondary education. The state’s interest may include increasing educational attainment rates, decreasing unemployment rates, increasing civic engagement, increasing productivity, improving quality of life, decreasing dependency on social welfare programs, and the like. Central to the accomplishment of these goals is the quality of the education students receive from the postsecondary institutions within their state. A quality educational experience is likely to lead to greater learning and an increased likelihood of earning a credential. One potential tool states have in their quality assurance toolbox is the authorization of institutions.
State authorization refers to the process by which the state offers (or declines) approval of an entity to establish itself as a postsecondary institution. It is the first formal act in the legal operation of an institution and often serves as the foundation upon which other quality assurance functions are built (like accreditation). Institutions must seek initial authorization and then, in most cases, seek the renewal of their authorization annually or at some other interval established by the state. Through the authorization process, states can evaluate the capacity of an institution to offer a quality education, protect students, and advance the goals of the state.