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What Does the Fact That the Institution or Program is Accredited Mean to Students?

It means that students can have confidence in an institution or program because those who went before had access to a quality education. Through accreditation, peer experts have reviewed the quality of the education provided, the processes by which students are educated and the processes that the institution or program uses to maintain an acceptable level of quality over time

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.

How Do Students Know That an Accredited Institution or Program Will Keep Its Word in Providing the Education Described in Its Public Materials? As part of the accreditation process, institutions and programs must demonstrate that they meet the accreditation standards requiring that they provide quality education. And, they have to demonstrate truth in advertising – that the information presented about the education they offer is accurate.

To the public, the accreditation process provides value not only through judging quality, but also assuring reliable information about institutions and programs, promoting accountability and identifying successful improvement efforts. Accreditation: • Confirms that the public presentation of an educational program, student services and graduate accomplishments is fair and accurate. • Promotes accountability through ongoing external evaluation of the institution or program, with a finding that there is compliance with general expectations in higher education or a professional field as reflected in the accreditation standards. • Identifies institutions and programs that have voluntarily undertaken explicit activities directed at improving the quality of the institution and its professional programs and are carrying them out successfully.