In the previous post in this series, I discussed the importance of accreditation in your post-secondary school setup journey.
In this blog post, I am going to dive into the different types of accreditation in the United States.
Keep in mind that you can always reach out to me via phone call or email for a free consultation about your accreditation needs or any other questions related to the university, college, or academic program set up in the USA.
Wait...What Is Accreditation Again?
In the United States, post-secondary institutions can operate with much autonomy. There is no Ministry of Education or other federal authority that exercises control over the quality of universities and colleges and as a result, US-based academic institutions vary greatly one from another in terms of the quality of their offered programs.
For this reason, accreditation was introduced as a practice. The goal of accrediting agencies is to ensure a basic level of quality through peer evaluation of academic programs and institutions.
Some important functions of accreditation to keep in mind are:
- Accreditation evaluates the quality of academic programs at post-secondary institutions
- Accreditation raises standards of post-secondary education by the means of continuous improvement of the quality of academic programs offered
- Accreditation establishes criteria for professional licensure and certification
Types of Accreditation
There are two distinctive types of accreditation. One is referred to as “institutional”, and the other one is “specialized” (also called “programmatic”).
Generally speaking, institutional accreditation applies to an entire academic institution, assuming that each of its parts contributes to the achievement of its objectives.
Specialized, or programmatic accreditation, on the other hand, applies to programs, schools, and departments that are parts of an institution.
Institutional accreditation is further divided into two categories: national and regional. While national accrediting agencies accredit institutions in any state in America, regional accreditation bodies only accredit those located in a specific geographic region.
There’s a lot of debate in the academic space in regards to the prestigiousness of national vs regional accreditation types. This is in part due to a common belief about regional accrediting bodies being more focused on academic standards than national ones. As a result, regional accreditation has gained a reputation of being more prestigious.
From my professional experience of working with several privately-owned post-secondary universities and colleges, national accreditation is just as rigorous and academically focused as regional, contrary to the popular belief. In addition to that, national accreditation is more affordable and faster to obtain.
In an ideal scenario, you would apply for both the regional and national accreditation simultaneously, provided you have a budget that allows for this.
As mentioned earlier, a regional accrediting body would serve a specific geographic region within the United States. These types of agencies only accredit post-secondary institutions and primary and secondary schools.
There are exactly six regional accrediting bodies that operate in the States. These are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education - serves Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands.
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges - serves Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (dissolved) is now replaced by the Higher Learning Commission - serves Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio, West Virginia, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities - serves Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Utah.
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - serves Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia.
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges - serves Hawaii, California, Guam, and American Samoa.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education (DOE) acknowledges several national accreditation bodies in the US. These agencies are referred to as “national” because they aren’t limited or organized by regional geographic areas.
To determine whether any given post-secondary school is accredited by a recognized national agency, you can take a look at those accrediting bodies that are approved by either or both the CHEA and DOE.
These national accrediting agencies are further classified into the following categories:
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission
- National Faith-Related Accrediting Organizations:
- National Career-Related Accrediting Organizations
To reiterate, program accreditation (or specialized accreditation) is focused on academic programs within post-secondary institutions. Examples can be a Nursing program, the School of Business, and so on.
In most cases, programmatic accrediting bodies will only consider programs if the institutions as a whole are already accredited. In the United States, there are a number of these types of agencies, with each focused on a specific profession or a group of professions.
For instance, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) all focus on business programs accreditation.
The Accreditation Council for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) both accredit programs within the nursing profession.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) focuses on applied sciences, engineering, technology, and computing.
The American Bar Association (ABA) focuses on the legal profession, while the well-known American Psychological Association (APA) accredits all types of psychology programs.
When a certain program is accredited, its curriculum and quality have been assessed to meet the standards of a specific profession. Prospective students that choose an accredited program are confident that it is taught appropriately and will provide them with relevant knowledge and skills to succeed in that profession.
For a more comprehensive list of program accrediting agencies, check this section of the CHEA’s website.
Are you dreaming of opening your university or college in the USA? My team and I can help. Reach out to us today to get your free consultation.