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Leaders in Christian higher education could be in for an easier time under Barack Obama's administration than they had under George Bush.

Under Bush's administration, the federal government became increasingly involved in accreditation for higher education, said Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Corts and others in Christian higher education are hopeful that the Obama administration will back off from further involvement.

"Historically, you think Republicans are less intrusive on rules and regulations and stingier on money; Democrats usually are more liberal on money but want to be much more regulatory," Corts said. "We'll see. Obama keeps talking about change and a new day and he's trying to do things a lot differently, so maybe we won't find what everybody expects."

The nomination of Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan as Obama's secretary of education leaves many higher education predictions unanswered because of his K-12 focus, but those in higher education are watching closely for decisions on government involvement in accreditation.

The federal government became more involved in the regional accreditation process when the Bush administration created a structure for regional agencies to report on the federal level. It had stayed out of the actual accreditation process until the spring of 2007, when the department suggested requiring minimal standards and stricter data reporting from accrediting agencies.

"That's where this feeling that it began to be heavy-handedness on the part of the administration came from," Corts said. "Secretary [Margaret] Spellings made some pretty significant statements hinting at far greater federal leverage coming down — that gave a lot of heartburn ...

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December 2008

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