Upstart Auditor for Boot Camp Experiment

November 12, 2015

A recently announced experiment by the U.S. Department of Education will allow a handful of nontraditional providers -- including boot camps and online course providers -- to team up with accredited colleges on academic offerings that will be eligible for federal financial aid. Applicants for the program are required to bring in an outside "quality-assurance entity," which will serve as an alternative form of accreditation.

Entangled Solutions, a higher education consulting firm, said this week that it is seeking to be one of those quality-assurance entities. The company released a white paper describing its philosophy on measuring quality in higher education. Those principles include a focus on outcomes -- including assessments of student learning.

"We intend to focus measurement on the value that each program claims it is providing students and match that with what students are in fact 'buying.' If, for example, a program claims to provide a career benefit, we will measure that benefit relative to the program’s cost, assess how the program’s benefit compares to alternative options, and report on what students say they wanted and received from the program," the paper said.

The new entity's quality-review standards -- and the findings from those reviews -- will be open and publicly available. Entangled Solutions is working with a few college partners to apply to participate in the federal experiment.

Paul Freedman, a principal consultant for the company, said the ultimate goal will be for the new form of accreditor to become an independent, nonprofit entity. The result would be a quality-review process and a set of standards without an owner.

"It would be better to have more of an open marketplace," Freedman said. "That's what we ultimately would like to happen."

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