How is College and University Accreditation Regulated?

College and University Accreditation

Finding the best college can have a big impact on your future. The right class size and the right location can play a big role in the decision. Another factor is accreditation. According to theĀ U.S. Department of Education: “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” But just how is the level of quality determined?Who Accredits Universities and Colleges?

Both the government and private entities play a role in the accreditation of institutions of higher education. Each agency develops its own criteria that must be met in order for a school to be accredited by that agency. At first glance, this may seem like a very subjective way of doing things. This is where the government comes in. To be considered valid, accrediting agencies must seek national recognition. In order to be nationally recognized, they must meet established standards for reliability. The U.S. Secretary of Education makes the final decision about whether or not an agency will be nationally recognized.

The Process of Accreditation

There are six basic steps that an institution seeking accreditation must go through. Firstly, the school works with the accrediting agency to determine the standards that must be met. Next, the school prepares an internal study to determine how their performance compares with the standards that have been established. Thirdly, the agency sends a team of people to visit the school to see if standards really are being met.

If all standards are met, the institution can move on to the fourth step in the accreditation process: publication. The accrediting agency includes the school in a publication of accredited institutions. Inclusion in a publication of this kind can have a positive impact in enrollment at the newly accredited institution. The last two steps in the accreditation process are monitoring and reevaluation. In the period immediately following accreditation, institutions are closely monitored to make sure they still meet the required standards. Then they are periodically reevaluated to ensure that they keep their accredited status.

Specialized Accreditation

Not all accreditation takes place at the level of the whole institution. There is also specialized or programmatic accreditation. With this kind of accreditation, a smaller part of the whole institution may be be accredited. This could be a curriculum for a particular degree program, or it could be entire college within the university. For example, the school of business at a particular institution may have a special accreditation.

The interesting thing about specialized accreditation programs is that sometimes they do accredit an entire institution. This would be the case if the institution were a vocational school. Specialized accreditation agencies may also accredit educational programs that do not take place in a university setting. For example, they may accredit a hospital’s educational programs.

Accrediting agencies clearly play a large role in the success or failure of an institution of higher education. It is important to note that these agencies only have authority within the United States, and only with post-secondary educational institutions. Although the standards may differ between accrediting agencies, all of them must adhere to higher national standards. This system of accreditation ensures that students will get the quality education they deserve.