Accreditation: What is it?
The act of accrediting or the state of being accredited; specifically, the granting of approval to an institution of learning by an official review board after the school or program has met specific requirements.
A system for recognizing educational programs that meet a defined set of standards – granted by private organizations.
Types of Accreditors:
- Institutional accreditors – regional, national faith-based and national career-related accrediting organizations that review entire institutions; and
- Programmatic accreditors – professional and specialized accrediting organizations that review specific programs or subject area offerings.
Regional accrediting commissions are among the oldest accrediting organizations in the country. The United States is divided into six accreditation regions. Regional accrediting commissions review entire institutions, as opposed to programs or schools/colleges within the institutions:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (www.msche.org) DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, PR, VI
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (www.neasc.org) CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org) AZ, AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MO, NE, NM, ND, OH, OK, SD, WV, WI, WY
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (www.nwccu.org) AK, ID, MT, OR, UT, WA
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (www.sacscoc.org) AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (www.wascweb.org) CA, HI, AS, GU, FM, MH, MP
Faith-Based and Career:
The authority of these accrediting councils and commissions is not confined to a particular region, but rather extends to institutions of a particular type across the entire country. Career accreditors generally review vocational and professional institutions, many of which are proprietary. Faith-based accreditors accredit institutions that have a religious affiliation or are spiritually oriented. Both types accredit whole institutions rather than programs or schools/colleges within an institution.
Professional and Specialized:
Specialized and professional accreditors, like the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), accredit degree-granting programs in particular disciplines or program areas. Specialized accreditors review programs or schools/colleges within institutions.
Who Accredits the Accreditors?
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a private organization that recognizes all accreditors that accredit degree-granting institutions or programs.
The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) recognizes institutions and schools that seek federal aid for students and/or foreign student visas. Regional and faith-based institutions must be CHEA recognized prior to USDE recognition. USDE does not recognize specialized or programmatic accreditors, rather the institutions where such programs reside.