Bill Description: House Bill 321 gives unelected bureaucrats in the State Board of Education emergency governing authority over a community college if the required accreditation organization, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), issues a sanction of show cause concerning the college’s accreditation, or suspends or revokes its accreditation.The bill requires that before the State Board of Education assumes governing authority of the community college, a petition of 1,000 qualified electors of the community must be filed with the state board, requesting that the board assumes governing authority. This would have the effect of making accreditation with the NWCCU mandatory for all community colleges in Idaho, therefore establishing a monopoly for the NWCCU. It would also usurp the will of local voters by only requiring 1,000 signatures requesting that the board assume authority over a community college, when there are over 100,000 voters in many community college districts across the state.
Does the bill reduce or eliminate layers of bureaucracy allowing universities to be more flexible, improve feedback mechanisms, and decentralize decisions to the individual level? Conversely, does the bill create or increase layers of bureaucracy?
House Bill 321 would allow the SBOE to assume governing authority over a community college and would result in making accreditation mandatory, therefore increasing bureaucratic regulatory burdens on community colleges. Under House Bill 321, the State Board of Education (SBOE) would be able to assume governing authority over a community college if the NWCCU issues a sanction of a college’s accreditation, suspends, or revokes its accreditation. The SBOE requires all public four-year institutions and community colleges that voluntarily seek accreditation to be accredited by one institution, the NWCCU. Thus, House Bill 321 would have the effect of exclusively requiring community colleges to be accredited by the NWCCU and comply with any demand it imposes, to avoid a sanction or lose governing authority of the institution. Community colleges and four-year public universities currently seek accreditation on a voluntary basis. But accreditation is already a condition of receiving federal dollars, such as Pell grants, making accreditation a necessity for many institutions of higher education. Regardless, this new regulation would make accreditation from one accreditation institution mandatory, thus granting the NWCCU a monopoly on accrediting all community colleges in the state of Idaho and stifling the independent decision making of community colleges board of trustees.
Does the bill create more transparency or accountability of public institutions of education? Conversely, does the bill decrease transparency and accountability in public education institutions?
This bill decreases accountability in public institutions of education by usurping governing authority from the board of trustees of community colleges and giving this authority to the SBOE if the NWCCU sanctions a community college, suspends or revokes its accreditation. Currently community colleges are governed by an elected board of trustees that makes independent decisions according to the will of voters. House Bill 321 eliminates this local control and accountability by handing authority to the SBOE if a petition is signed by a minority of only 1,000 voting members of the community. But there are over 100,000 local voters in many of these communities across Idaho. Local authorities own community colleges; the state does not.
House Bill 321 decreases transparency in public institutions by forcing community colleges to be accredited by the NWCCU and comply with all of the organization’s demands to avoid sanctions or lose their authority to govern themselves. Accreditation is currently voluntary, but under House Bill 321 community colleges are forced to comply with the demands of the NWCCU, a private institution. The NWCCU does not make its members' votes publicly available and is not subject to the will of voters when establishing criteria for degree granting authority.
House Bill 321 further gives the SBOE authority to grant the community petition to determine whether the community college “would likely lose its accreditation” and “irreparably harm students.”
House Bill 321 requires community colleges to be in good standing with the accrediting institution for two years before governing authority of the college is returned to the locally elected board of trustees. This reduces accountability in public institutions long term by giving the state authority over community colleges which belong to local authorities and are supposed to be subject to voters in the community.
Does the bill remove barriers to entry thus incentivizing entrepreneurship, and increasing the supply side of education services in the marketplace? Conversely, does the bill create or increase barriers to entry?
House Bill 321 would effectively make accreditation mandatory instead of voluntary for community colleges in Idaho. Accreditation is the foremost barrier to entry in the market for colleges and universities, by enabling a single provider to use licensing to thwart competition. The SBOE has given one accreditor, the NWCCU, a monopoly on accreditation in Idaho by requiring all public four year universities and community colleges to be accredited by it if they voluntarily seek accreditation. This crowds out other accreditation options and limits innovation and experimentation in higher education. House Bill 321 exacerbates this problem.
House Bill 321 only applies to community colleges and not four year public universities. This establishes an exclusive and discriminatory barrier to entry for community colleges.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.