When considering enrolling in a program at an institution of higher education, it is essential to make sure that the school is accredited. Learn about accrediting agencies and where to find this information when researching a school.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is important because the U.S. has no federal ministry of education and while states assume some degree of control over educational standards, higher education institutions have 'considerable independence and autonomy'.
Therefore, to ensure quality, accreditation commissions and agencies are set in place to judge institutions based on overall quality as well as the quality of specific subject programs. Accreditation means an agency has assessed a school or program based on key factors, including:
- Mission, objectives and goals
- Admission requirements
- Academic resources
- Curriculum content
- Faculty quality
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Communications and Journalism
- Computer Sciences
- Culinary Arts and Personal Services
- Liberal Arts and Humanities
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies
- Medical and Health Professions
- Physical Sciences
- Transportation and Distribution
- Visual and Performing Arts
What Are Accrediting Agencies?
Accrediting agencies are private education organizations that examine schools and programs at a national or regional level. They develop evaluation criteria and make sure standards are met at institutions, which they accredit according to academic standards. Regional accreditation agencies typically accredit non-profit colleges and universities, while national accreditation is generally applied to for-profit schools. The regional accreditation agencies include:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
The U.S. Department of Education specifies two types of accrediting agencies: institutional accrediting agencies and specialized or programmatic accrediting agencies. Institutional accrediting agencies evaluate the quality of entire schools. These agencies may accredit schools on the national or regional level, or they focus on schools that offer programs in specific academic disciplines. Specialized or programmatic accrediting agencies assess the quality of individual certificate or degree programs.
Where Can I Find Accreditation Information?
Colleges and universities typically list accreditation information on their websites. Many accreditation agencies also provide a list of the schools that they have accredited on their websites. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education provides an extensive database of accredited schools and agencies. Within this database, students can search for information by institution or by accrediting agency.
Schools Not Monitored
Unlike many other countries, the United States government does not officially rank or monitor secondary education institutions. Therefore, it is important that students find a school recognized by a government-recognized accrediting agency. This ensures that a student isn't fooled by fraudulent accrediting agencies, often created by what are called 'diploma mill' schools. These schools often create their own not-nationally recognized accrediting agencies in order to make themselves seem legitimate when in fact they provide no genuine educational services.
Accreditation ensures the quality of an institution or program. Students can find accreditation information on school websites, accreditation agency website and the website of the U.S. Department of Education.