I’ve discussed the steps to becoming accredited in a recently published blog post that you can find here.
In this series of posts, however, I wanted to focus on accreditation in more depth, providing the ins and outs of the process, and covering all the little details that are useful to keep in mind as you take your first step into this journey.
Why is accreditation important? How do you choose the right accreditation for your organization? What are some of the most popular accreditors out there?
I’ll explore these questions and more in this first piece of the series to provide you with useful information that could help you make an informed decision.
Let’s dive right in.
Simply put, accreditation is a formal quality review of post-secondary institutions.
In the United States, accreditation serves as a major factor that provides prospective students and government officials with the knowledge that a certain institution offers quality education.
Why Is Accreditation So Important?
Whether a post-secondary institution in the USA is accredited or not is crucial because of the following reasons:
- A majority of States provide non-accredited institutions with a provisional license on the condition that they become fully accredited within a given timeframe. Those that fail to meet this condition risk their license being revoked or suspended.
- Unless your university or college is fully accredited, your existing and prospective students won’t be able to obtain federal and state loans and grants to fund their tuition.
- In general, employers inquire whether a college or university is accredited before making a decision to provide their current staff with tuition assistance, assessing credentials of job applicants, or making charitable contributions.
- State governments make it mandatory for colleges and universities to be accredited before allowing students to sit for licensure exams in certain professional fields.
What Does it Mean To Be Accredited?
In the United States, colleges, universities are accredited by one of the 19 recognized accrediting organizations, while programs are accredited by one of roughly 60 recognized organizations.
The CHEA Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations has information about over 44,000 programs and 8,200 organizations in the United States.
This database is especially useful if you’re trying to learn about a specific college or university, or figuring out whether a certain accrediting organization accredits an institution.
Who Acts As Accreditors?
Generally speaking, accreditors are private, nongovernmental organizations specifically built to review colleges, universities, and post-secondary programs in the United States for quality.
And for those looking to find a recognized U.S accrediting entity in another country, exploring the CHEA International Directory would be a great idea. This directory contains contact information for organizations in 175 countries, including the USA.
The Role of US Department of Higher Education
The US Department of postsecondary oversees and reviews accrediting agencies and further publically releases information about those that are deemed recognized. Check out the list of accrediting organizations here.
Accreditors have to go through the process of approval by the US Department of postsecondary. As per standard, there is a submission process with certain standards and requirements every accreditor has to meet.
The US Dept. reviews its list of recognized accreditors every few years, and further makes a decision to either keep the status for some or revoke it for others.
A good example of a recognized agency whose accreditor status was revoked this year is the case of Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
This is one of the reasons why I always emphasize the importance of choosing a stable accreditor as you embark on this journey.
When ACICS lost its accreditor status, those universities and colleges that were previously accredited by this agency had their accreditation revoked as well. As a result, these institutions were forced to start their accreditation processes from scratch with another accreditor.
And to add to all of that - accreditation isn’t cheap. It takes anywhere from two to five years for a post-secondary institution to become fully accredited, and it roughly costs $50,000 to $250,000 to cover the incurred expenses, not including consultancy fees.
More About CHEA
Council for Higher Education Accreditation, otherwise known as CHEA, is a national advocate for academic quality through accreditation in the United States. It’s currently the only formal organization that is dedicated to post-secondary quality assurance and accreditation.
As you embark on your accreditation journey and are in the process of choosing the right accrediting body, make sure to review the comprehensive list of accreditors approved by both the CHEA and the USE Department of Higher Education here.
The process of post-secondary accreditation is already extremely time-consuming and costly. Going with the wrong accreditor just to start things from scratch, later on, would only add to the complexities.
Keep in mind that even with the formal list provided above, there are still many factors and considerations that you’ll have to address before choosing the right fit for your college, program, or university.
I will be discussing more things on accreditation in the next posts of this series. Watch out for updates on our blog, and feel free to schedule a consultation call with me if you need help with your accreditation journey as you open your university or college in the USA.