Saturday, 10 October 2009


The best argument in favour of seeking AACSB accreditation, to my mind, is that it provides a mechanism for business schools to reduce their tax rate from the central administration. Meeting AACSB is expensive and some universities view their business schools as cash cows to fund the bench sciences or arts; having an external constraint can whittle back that cross-subsidization and let business schools keep more of their own earned revenue. Fortunately, at Canterbury, each College pays a fixed per-student tax to the central administration (the "contribution margin") and avoids too large of cross-subsidies.

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that some schools are now questioning whether the benefits of accreditation are worth the costs.
In thinking about selecting a new dean for its business school this year, Southern New Hampshire University considered whether the new leader should guide the school to gain accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, as more than 500 colleges have done.

But after seeing estimates that the costs of meeting those standards could top $2-million annually, Paul J. LeBlanc, president of the university, decided that approval from the business-college association wasn't worth the institution's time or money.
The article provides some hard numbers on costs but only anecdotes on benefits of accreditation. The best anecdotes talk about school budgets increasing (my story, above); the worse anecdotes talk about whether international students rely heavily on AACSB certification. Those latter anecdotes of course have contrary counter-anecdotes:
Mr. Halfond, of Boston University's Metropolitan College, said that whether or not an institution has earned a specialized accreditation is probably not a major concern of most students and applicants. Because of that, he said, some colleges may calculate that the cost of seeking and maintaining accreditation is far greater than that of losing a few potential students.

In fact, Steven F. Soba, director of undergraduate admissions at Southern New Hampshire, said that during his 17 years as an admissions officer he could think of only a couple of instances where parents had inquired about any kind of accreditation.
When Canterbury started down the AACSB path, I was utterly unable to find a single reputable study putting hard numbers on benefits of accreditation. If anybody knows of any, I'd love to see them. Event studies showing effects on foreign student enrollments after having achieved accreditation would be nice; so too would be event studies on external assessments of school reputation, controlling for the portion of increase that's due only to increased ability to extract resources from center (because schools for whom such opportunities are limited would otherwise overestimate potential benefits).


  1. March 21, 2011
    I am very disappointed that SNHU stopped pursuing AACSB accreditation. I now work for a major financial company and I was looking into pursuing an online MBA at SNHU. I was told that getting an MBA from SNHU would not get me anywhere in my company since SNHU is not AACSB accredited. Major companies do indeed pay attention to AACSB accreditation when looking at employees educations.

  2. True in the States, Anon, but not in NZ.

  3. Are there roads in New Zealand?