American Academy for Liberal Education

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American Academy for Liberal Education
Formation 1992
Type Nonprofit
Charles E. Butterworth

The American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) is a United States-based educational accreditation organization with a focus on fostering liberal arts education, both in higher education and in earlier schooling.

AALE does not currently have U.S. Department of Education recognition as a higher education accreditor.[1]


AALE was formed in 1992 with the stated purpose of "supporting and recognizing excellence in undergraduate liberal arts teaching and learning through accreditation."[2] Founders included Jacques Barzun, retired philosophy professor from Columbia University, E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese of Emory University, and Lynne Cheney, former U.S. Secretary of Education.[3][4] Its initial focus was on undergraduate education, which Barzun said had become "confused, misdirected or not directed at all."[5]

In July 1995, the U.S. Department of Education granted AALE official recognition as an institutional accreditor for colleges and universities.[3] This recognition allowed AALE-accredited institutions in the United States to participate in student financial aid programs authorized under the Higher Education Act and other U.S. federal programs.[6]

In December 2006, the U.S. Department of Education suspended AALE's authority to accredit new institutions and programs.[7][8] This restriction was lifted in December 2007.[9] In the ruling that lifted the restrictions for a period of three years (expiring in December, 2010), Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wrote of "continued concerns stemming from AALE's being cited consistently since 2001 for either not having clear standards with respect to measuring student outcomes or not collecting and reviewing data on how institutions it accredits measures student outcomes."[10]

In November 2010, AALE voluntarily withdrew its request for renewal of U.S. Department of Education recognition as a higher education accreditor.[11] For institutions accredited by AALE in 2010 or earlier, accreditation remained valid through July 1, 2012 for purposes of federal government financial aid to students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.[12]


AALE provides two types of accreditation for higher education institutions that offer general education programs in the liberal arts. It provides institutional accreditation for universities and colleges that want AALE to be their sole accreditor and it provides program accreditation for liberal arts programs within higher education institutions that are institutionally accredited by another accreditor.[13] AALE accreditation activities are not limited to the United States; the organization works with institutions and programs worldwide that emphasize liberal education and the liberal arts.

The organization also is an accreditor of K–12 charter schools and independent schools throughout the United States.

As of August 2009, AALE had accredited about 20 institutions within the United States,and another dozen members outside the country.[14] Several AALE-accredited institutions follow a "great books" approach.[7]


Since January 2011, AALE has been led by acting president Charles E. Butterworth, an emeritus professor of politics and government at the University of Maryland.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Accreditation > Agency List". Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  2. ^ "U.S. Department of Education Staff Report to the Senior Department Official on Recognition Compliance Issues: American Academy for Liberal Education", U.S. Department of Education, 2010. 44 pages.
  3. ^ a b Honan, William H. (August 6, 1995). "A New Group Will Accredit Some Colleges". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Baker, Russ; Borjesson, Kristina (February 16, 2011). "The empire strikes again; Sex, oil, chaos and corruption at the American University of Iraq". 
  5. ^ DePalma, Anthony (March 3, 1993). "Traditionalist Scholars Plan To Rate Liberal Arts Colleges". New York Times. 
  6. ^ Accreditation in the United States: Specialized Accrediting Agencies, U.S. Department of Education website, accessed December 23, 2009
  7. ^ a b "Fears of Possible Federal Learning Standards Grow as Liberal-Arts Accreditor Is Penalized". Chronicle of Higher Education. December 7, 2006.  (subscription required)
  8. ^ Paul Basken (June 8, 2007). "Accreditor Loses Certification Power". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  9. ^ NAS Expresses Pleasure and Relief at Advisory Panel's Recommendation on the AALE, National Association of Scholars press release, December 19, 2007 (accessed on NAS website, December 23, 2009)
  10. ^ "A Break From Purgatory, Barely". Inside Higher Ed. July 23, 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Report of the Meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity" (PDF). Department of Education. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Domestic Standards, Applications, and Publications". American Academy for Liberal Education. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Accreditation process, AALE website (accessed December 7, 2007)
  14. ^ Members and Applicants, AALE website, accessed August 30, 2009
  15. ^ "Current Events: AALE Announces New Acting President". American Academy for Liberal Education. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 

External links[edit]