By design, accrediting agencies play a range of roles for the colleges and universities they oversee: partner in institutional improvement, convener of a community of interest around issues of quality, and watchdog deputized by the federal government to ensure the institutions are deserving of federal funds. Those roles sometimes conflict; when accreditors appear to put their “improvement” mission first, advocates for students sometimes accuse them of going soft, and when they focus on accountability, their own members say they’re overstepping their bounds.
For the last 20 years or so, the WASC Senior College and University Commission has walked that tightrope more than most. A decade ago,
collecting and publishing data only part of the equation — CAP wants minimums for performance, etc.