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New Ecosystems in Higher Education and What They Mean for Accreditation and Assessment

January, 2013

In its American incarnation, accreditation exists because of a confluence of two otherwise unrelated historical trends. The first involved the massive outpouring of philanthropy to institutions of higher learning at the beginning of the 20th century. Shocked by the dismal state of university administration and accountability, industrialists like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie demanded minimal standards as a condition for receiving grants and gifts. These were men of industry who were enamored with industrial management practices, including quality control and measurement. The second trend was spurred by the massive increase in enrollments in the mid‐20th century, increases that threatened to overwhelm the nation’s colleges. The solution was to make institutions more efficient. Efficiency in post‐WWII America meant factory efficiency, and so colleges and universities adopted the methods of the factory floor.


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