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The Abet Criteria For Engineering Technology Are Broke. Let’s Fix Them!

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.505.1 - 4.505.9

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David E. Hornbeck

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3549


David E. Hornbeck Southern Polytechnic State University

ABSTRACT The proposed new ABET criteria for engineering technology 1 have generated much discussion in the engineering technology community. A common concern is that the proposed outcomes-based criteria, without quantitative specifications, cannot maintain the quality of programs as effectively as the existing ABET criteria do. This paper will show that the rationale behind existing criteria is often not clear, and the criteria themselves are vulnerable to inconsistent interpretation. After examining major elements of the existing criteria, this paper will show that they do not provide a reliable basis for determining the quality of graduates from engineering technology programs. It will be suggested that outcomes-based criteria present no more of a threat to quality than do the current criteria, and that the proposed criteria have the potential to improve reliability of the accreditation process by focusing only on factors directly affecting the quality of graduates.


Historically, as the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC of ABET) encountered new accreditation issues, it amended criteria to address those new issues. However, changes in degree programs occurred more rapidly than the current criteria could be modified under TAC’s two-year revision cycle, and it became increasingly clear that the existing criteria were not a suitable framework from which to address new and emerging issues in engineering technology education. With remote delivery of courses, web-based instruction, just-in-time instruction and non-traditional programs becoming increasingly common, TAC realized their criteria document needed more than amendments---it needed a new framework. In 1996, the TAC Criteria Committee was charged to recommend the format and substance for criteria suitable for accrediting engineering technology programs into the long-term future. That committee opted for outcomes-based criteria, the concept of which was endorsed by the TAC in July of 1998.

The Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC of ABET), having experienced similar problems, had already begun to implement outcomes-based criteria by 1996. Both the new EAC criteria and the proposed TAC criteria were intended to be more compatible with assessment philosophies being used by most universities and regional accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies focus on institutional self-assessment, and their approach to accreditation requires institutions to a. define their objectives, b. perform a self-assessment to see how well their objectives and accreditation criteria are met, c. address the weaknesses found in the self-assessment, and d. submit to an on-site visitation by the accreditation agency. Emphasis is on managing assessment and self-improvement, and institutions are accredited based on convincing evidence that they can effectively manage the quality of programs while complying with criteria.

Hornbeck, D. E. (1999, June), The Abet Criteria For Engineering Technology Are Broke. Let’s Fix Them! Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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