When this much money is involved (e.g., the potential availability of over $150 billion–with a “b”–annually in federal financial aid), and new companies want in the game, things can start to happen:
A proposal is circulating quietly on Capitol Hill to ask accreditors to create a new, more flexible form of approval for new and nontraditional providers of higher education. The measure, a slight 37 words, contains few details about the new system it envisions…. Its odds are long; so far, no lawmakers have volunteered to sponsor it. And its backers are few, albeit potentially influential: Bob Kerrey, the former New School president and Nebraska senator and governor, and Ben Nelson, the founder of the Minerva Project, the for-profit, startup online university with Ivy League-level ambitions. (Kerrey is executive chairman of the Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship, a fledgling nonprofit established by the Minerva Project.)…. Accreditation is expected to be a major focus when Congress begins rewriting the Higher Education Act, the law governing federal financial aid programs; last year, the federal panel reviewing accreditors offered its suggestions as to what lawmakers might do. But Nelson and Kerrey hope Congress will act even sooner to urge accreditors to embrace innovation — aiming to attach their proposal as an amendment to whatever legislation Congress votes on to resolve the student loan interest rate issue before July 1.
Full article here. With for-profits in the mix, and major state and private universities also attempting to become innovators, the government may move quickly over the next few years. But in what directions and towards what outcome are the questions….