Taliesin West
Greg O'Beirne/Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons license Taliesin West

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture faces accreditation loss in 2017, due to new rules instated by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a Chicago-based regional accrediting body. HLC accreditation is required by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the agency that evaluates all U.S. master's degree programs in the field.

HLC adopted by-law changes in 2012, stating that accredited institutions must be separately incorporated from sponsoring organizations, which HLC’s public information officer John Hausaman describes as “not an atypical expectation for an institution of higher education.” The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, which includes campuses at Taliesin West Scottsdale, Ariz., and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisc., is part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which also runs the two Taliesins, and helps maintain collections of Wright’s work.

HLC’s by-law changes require the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture to file for incorporation as an institution with a primary purpose of offering higher education. HLC has offered the school a two to three-year time frame for it to make the change necessary to meet the requirement. Now, it is up to the school to decide whether or not to make that change.

The school, which dates its history back to the establishment of the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, earned accreditation in 1992. It was put on notice by HLC in June 2005, and again in November 2010, for issues related to governance. “Notice provides the opportunity for institutions to correct issues that could possibly lead them to be out of compliance with our standards,” Hausaman says.

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation president and CEO Sean Malone broke the news to the school’s 20 students yesterday. All currently enrolled students will be able to complete their accredited education with the current program.

“The Foundation is deeply disappointed by this determination, which means that, starting sometime in 2017 or later, the School of Architecture will no longer be able to independently offer a Master of Architecture degree,” says Malone in a press release, mentioning that the school has been working for over a year on a “robust post-professional program” that would not require HLC accreditation.

The statement goes on to say that the school is exploring other programs that “could meet critical needs in the fields of architecture and design that the Foundation would be uniquely positioned to meet.” It is also investigating potential academic partnerships with other accredited institutions that might allow the school to continue to offer an M.Arch. degree beyond 2017.

“Frank Lloyd Wright himself started the Taliesin Fellowship to challenge normative educational models, not to emulate them,” says Malone. “In this spirit, the Board and staff of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation had committed to ‘remaking’ the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture well before this HLC decision.”