NAICU Washington Update

Regional Accreditor to Accept Applications From Outside Its Traditional Region

February 28, 2020

The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) announced that it will consider applications from WSCUC-accredited and affiliated institutions located outside of its traditional geographic scope of California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.
The announcement comes several months after the Department of Education published final regulations that removed restrictions on the geographic areas that regional accreditors may serve, thus allowing, but not requiring, regional accreditors to consider applications from institutions of higher education located outside of their traditional regions.
WSCUC is the first regional accrediting agency to announce plans to expand its scope in accordance with the new regulations, which take effect on July 1. It is unclear whether other agencies will follow suit.
In its announcement, WSCUC indicated that its initial focus would be on considering applications from WSCUC-accredited institutions that wish to relocate their campus or establish a new institution in another region.  However, the accreditor does not appear to have precluded the possibility of accrediting institutions that are currently accredited in other regions.
According to the Department, the changes to geographic scope requirements for regional accreditors is intended to foster competition among accreditors and spur innovation. Critics, however, have noted that the changes could potentially weaken the current accreditation system by incentivizing accreditors to impose less rigorous standards in order to lure new applicants.