Volume 3 No.2, Spring 1999

ISSN# 1523-9926

Guest Editorial

A Few Concerns About TAC Accreditation

Robert English
New Jersey Institute of Technology 

For more than a decade, I have been involved with TAC of ABET accreditation, serving various roles over the years. This year, I am on the other side of the fence preparing my questionnaires for a TAC visit this November. As I look to the future, I am seriously concerned about the direction of TAC and ABET, and the impact on engineering technology education. Maybe I am a Y2K alarmist but I do not think so. Let’s take a look … 

Later this month, TAC will be meeting in Baltimore to once again consider new criteria. The TAC Criteria Committee has been very secretive but rumor has it that the committee will again propose criteria almost identical to last year’s. Whatever comes out of this July’s TAC meeting, I suggest the engineering technology community look at any new proposed criteria very closely. Share your thoughts on the ETD Listserv and with the members of TAC and the ABET Board of Directors. After a year, the proposed criteria may become permanent – your input is critical. 

Federal Creep: Several years ago, the ABET decided to be ‘recognized’ by the United States Department of Education. At that time, ABET was looking to improve its stature worldwide because of its interest in international accreditation. During the early discussions of the ABET Executive Board, little was said about the price one has to pay for such ‘recognition.’ The price is called Federal Creep, which I define as the federal government, over time, trying to dictate accreditation policy, procedure, terminology and criteria. The goal is to achieve control and it has already started.

Scenario I: The days of ABET being a federation of engineering and engineering-related societies will remain, for a while, until the societies realize that the Department of Education is calling the shots and the societies’ primary function is to provide the dollars to keep the lights glowing at ABET’s Baltimore office. Eventually the societies will smell the roses and cease involvement, ABET volunteers will become disgusted and direct their energies elsewhere, and the ABET will fade into the sunset. This scenario is rather extreme to make a point but …

Scenario II: The synergy of bringing together ABET and the Department of Education results in accreditation procedure and criteria that are significantly improved from the past. Because the Department of Education’s involvement with a wide variety of accreditation agencies, ABET is able to strengthen engineering technology education while minimizing the cost of the accreditation process.

We have all dealt with the federal government bureaucracy at one time or another, paint your own scenario. Keep your eye on this issue because the potential for harm is great while benefits of the Department of Education recognition are minimal.

In summary, I have presented just two issues that will impact TAC accreditation, both of which are potentially serious. There are others. I cannot stress enough the importance of becoming proactive – let ABET know what you think.

NOTE: Robert English is a past-chair of the Technology Accreditation Commission [TAC] and an ABET Fellow.

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