More About Accreditation
Accreditation is both a process and a status. It is the process of reviewing colleges, universities, institutions and programs to judge their educational quality – how well they serve students and society. The result of the process, if successful, is the award of “accredited status.” Accreditation is carried out through nongovernmental organizations created in whole or in part by the higher education community. Some accrediting organizations review colleges and universities. Others review specific programs, e.g., law, medicine, engineering. In a number of fields, especially the health professions, graduation from an accredited program is a requirement for receiving a license to practice. At present, 80 recognized organizations accredit more than 7,000 institutions and 19,000 programs serving more than 24 million students.* All accrediting organizations create and use specific standards both to assure that institutions and programs meet threshold expectations of quality and to assure that they improve over time. These standards address key areas such as faculty, student support services, finance and facilities, curricula and student learning outcomes. All accrediting organizations use common practices, including a self review by the institution or program against the standards, an on-site visit by an evaluation team of peer experts and a subsequent review and decision by the accrediting body about accredited status. This review is repeated every three to ten years if the institution or program is to sustain its accreditation.