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Below is your one-stop guide for everything you need to know about the ins and outs of national accreditation.
What Does Accreditation Mean?
Accreditation means that someone or something has been officially recognized as having the required status or quality to perform a particular activity.
Right…but What Does It Really Mean?
In layman's terms, it’s a badge of authenticity that demonstrates to both governing officials and prospective students alike that your institution delivers quality education.
Accreditation is there to ensure that there is a basic level of quality offered by both dedicated programs and institutions overall.
It also acts as a great motivator to push you and your institution to continually improve the services that you provide.
Why You Need To Get Accredited
It’s not just a way of showing everyone the quality of your institution, accreditation can contribute to numerous other factors toward your success.
1. You may gain a provisional license under the condition that you achieve full accreditation within a specific timeframe. If you fail to meet these pre-agreed conditions then you run the risk of your license being suspected or in some cases completely revoked.
2. Students attending your institution will be unable to qualify for federal and state loans to fund their education when you’re not fully accredited.
3. If an employer is thinking of using your institution to train their staff then they may opt for a competitor that is fully accredited if you are not.
4. Licensure exams in certain professional fields can only be provided by institutions that are fully accredited.
What Are the National Accrediting Agencies?
Accrediting agencies are private, non-governmental bodies that are in charge of assessing post-education institutions and programs.
These are in turn assessed, regulated, and deemed recognizable by the US Department of Higher Education and must pass a process of appeal to be officially recognized.
Every few years accreditors are reviewed and they either keep their recognized status or have it revoked. If your accrediting agency loses its status, so do you and you will have to begin the process all over again.
For more information about the role of the US Department of Higher Education’s role in the process read one of our previous posts here.
What Types of Accreditations Are Available?
Accreditation can be broken down into two different types.
Specialized (Programmatic) accreditation
Institutional accreditation, as the name suggests applies to the entire institution. Whereas specialized/programmatic accreditation applies to specific programs or schools within your institution. If you are looking for specialized/programmatic accreditation then these will typically only be granted to institutions that are already accredited as a whole.
Institutional accreditation can then be further broken down into either:
However, we will only be discussing national accreditation on this page. Don’t forget to check out our guides to Regional Accreditation, and to Programmatic Accreditation.
For a more in-depth look into various types of university accreditation check out one of our previous posts here.
What Is National Accreditation?
National accrediting agencies are known as this because they can offer accreditation throughout the entire US, whereas Regional accrediting agencies are limited to a geographic region. These agencies are acknowledged by both The Council for Higher Education Acceleration (CHEA) and the US Department of Education (DOE).
Although regional accreditation has a reputation as being more prestigious, this is simply not true and if your budget allows for it, we recommended applying for both.
There are further three classifications that national accrediting agencies fall under:
1. Distance Education Accrediting Commission
The DEAC has a long history of promoting ethical business practices and education quality. To qualify for their accreditation, you must meet a selection of criteria including that at least 51% of your courses must be distance or correspondence education. If you would like to learn more about the DEAC, read this blog post.
2. National Faith-Related Accrediting Organization
This classification accredits institutions that have a religious affiliation or are spiritually focused. Typically these organizations accredit entire institutions rather than programs or specific schools within the institution.
These CHEA-recognized accrediting bodies are:
Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)
Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS)
Association of Theological Schools The Commission on Accrediting (ATS)
Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)
3. National Career-Related Accrediting Organization
These organizations focus on institutions that offer vocational and professional courses that are typically non-degree and for-profit. Again these focus mainly on entire institutions rather than specific programs and schools.
Is It Easy To Get Accredited?
It isn’t just simply applying to one of these organizations and hey presto you’re an accredited institution. You need to put in a lot of work to make sure you meet the standards.
It’s a long process, which is why we put together a step-by-step guide on how to tackle this and give you the best chance of success in this article.
How can I obtain accreditation for my college or university?
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